Dennis Taylor

Ballplayers get treat when Ali visits clubhouse

A visit from Muhammad Ali lit up a Major League Baseball clubhouse Wednesday, leaving high-paid professional athletes feeling giddy in his presence, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Angels centerfielder Torii Hunter compared his reaction to a Christmas morning from his childhood when the former heavyweight champ, a Phoenix resident, entered the clubhouse in Tempe prior to an 8-0 exhibition victory over the San Francisco Giants.

"It was like royalty walked in — it was silent," Hunter said. "We're all in the presence of greatness. Every athlete respects what Muhammad Ali did, all the (beatings) he put on all those boxers. He's the greatest of all time."

When he heard several days ago that Ali would be visiting the Angels' spring training camp, Hunter hearkened back to childhood emotions.

"You know how you have to wait to open Christmas presents? That's how I felt," said the multi-time American League All-Star. "I couldn't wait."

Hunter was first in line to approach Ali after the Hall of Famer — now 69 and suffering from Parkinson's disease– took a seat in the clubhouse.

"It's an honor to meet you," Hunter said, shaking Ali's hand. "I like that watch! That's nice."

Hunter then looked up with a wild-eyed grin and yelled, "That's the champ!"

Ali posed for individual photos with players, coaches, club officials and media members, then took part in a group shot before heading into the ballpark to watch the game.

 

<i>Dennis Taylor is editor/publisher of www.ringsideboxingshow.com and co-host of The Ringside Boxing Show</i>

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