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Angels Sluggers Honor Kids for Posting Big Attendance Numbers

Anaheim Sgt. Juan Reveles with students from Walter Elementary

Growing up with a rough crowd in Arkansas, Torii Hunter says he could’ve strayed into a life of drugs like his father.

Instead, he kept busy playing sports – and avoiding the wrath of his mother, a school teacher.

On Monday, the Angels’ star centerfield said those decisions were key to his success.

“School is very important,” he said to 500 cheering children. “What you do will affect you later.”

Hunter, slugger Bobby Abreu, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and police officials from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Anaheim, Orange and Buena Park police departments honored the formerly “at risk” children, ages 9-13, for great attendance – and avoiding gangs. Each child received an Angels cap, admission to the game and an exclusive and inspiring chat with the sluggers.

The students cheered when the players jumped on the dugout

“We are blessed to have a community partner like the Angels,” said Anaheim Police Lt. Mark Cyprien. “Being in a position to honor these children – many of whom had one foot in a gang – reenforces that they are making the right decisions when choosing to go to school.”

Their ticket in?

They had to improve their attendance and grades – and stay out of trouble.

Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu share stories from their childhood

David Santos, a sixth-grader at Walter Elementary, said the Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership’s mentor program has helped him.

Katie Morel, his mentor and a Walter first-grade teacher, opened her classroom to him and his friends after school. She’s taken him to movies, pizza and on other outings – at her own expense.

“The gangs are always coming up to me asking me where I’m from,” he said. “This keeps us busy and gives us a place to hang out after school away from the gangs.”

When asked about getting an evening at Angels stadium as a reward, he said, “It’s awesome,” adding Hunter is his favorite player.

He might like him even more after Monday’s outing.

Hunter and Abreu invited the children to attend a second game – as their guests.

To read Orange County Register reporter Eric Carpenter’s coverage, click here.

Walter Elementary teacher Katie Morel mentored Omar Higareda, 8, Juan Cruz, 13, and David Santos, 12

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