Six All-Stars on hand for mural unveiling
MLB, Pepsi Refresh Project working to help communities
ANAHEIM -- Unsurprisingly, Torii Hunter drew the loudest screams from the Little Leaguers gathered on the diamond in Santa Ana on Tuesday morning, but they were excited to see all of the All-Stars.
As part of the Pepsi Refresh Project, CC Sabathia, Justin Upton, Evan Longoria, Billy Butler, Andrew Bailey and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn joined Hunter in the presentation of a mural on the wall of a recreation center, with ballfields and young fans all around. The mural, 86 feet wide, took more than 500 hours and 20 people to complete, and features a pitcher in the center with a flower behind him, symbolizing the growth of a community that's taken a stand against local gangs.
"I just think it's incredible that MLB is reaching out to community and nonprofits," city councilwoman Michele Martinez said. "To come here during All-Star week and highlight the city of Santa Ana and Orange County, it speaks volumes."
The mural, created in partnership with LA Commons, an organization that engages communities in artistic impression, is the start of an MLB-wide project, with 15 teams asking for fan support in contributing to innovative ways of positively impacting communities. Pepsi Refresh will award more than $20 million this year to fund great ideas.
"I think it's a great thing," Hunter said. "The Pepsi Refresh Project is doing great, great things in the community. They're giving away millions of dollars all over the U.S. I'm all for it. Whatever Pepsi's doing when they're doing something great like this, I'm on board."
Celebrities Jenny McCarthy and AnnaLynn McCord also came out for the debut of the mural, but it was Hunter, the Angels' center fielder and local favorite, drew chants of his name.
"It's great, man," said Hunter, who is a four-time All-Star.
The next step is for fans to choose which team initiative will receive a $200,000 Pepsi Refresh grant to fulfill a project in their community. In Milwaukee, the Brewers are proposing to create the first universally-accessible baseball league for those with disabilities, and in Pittsburgh, there's a proposed urban garden that would be cultivated to grow fruits and vegetables to be donated to non-profits that assist the hungry. Fans can vote at mlb.com/PepsiRefresh or via text by typing the team's name to 76462 from now until Aug. 17 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
"Any chance I can get a chance to get out in the community and get involved, I think that it's a great thing that Pepsi's doing," Sabathia said.
And for the Santiago Little League, which had two city champion teams this season, the start of the Pepsi Refresh Project has given a beautiful addition to their field.
"It's amazing," league president Albert Durazo said. "To have these players out here, and this mural, the whole message of getting baseball in our community. We've been trying to pick up baseball so much over the past few years, because primarily being a Latino community, soccer is a lot more popular. Gradually it's grown."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.