Loney's Lounge earns Clemente nod
Dodgers first baseman makes giving back a priority in LA
LOS ANGELES -- James Loney remembers what the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program meant to him when he took part in Houston's RBI program as an aspiring youth baseball player.Therefore, he designed a community initiative called Loney's Lounge through which he invited 40 kids from RBI Los Angeles to attend a Dodgers game and a video-game party at Dodger Stadium with Loney and a few teammates, an event Loney would have enjoyed as a kid.
"It's just a great idea. It's kind of like really special, because our guys identify with James being an RBI alum," RBI founder John Young said. "The fact that he came to us with the idea and he's already been there for us is just tremendous."Loney's Lounge is just one of many reasons why Loney is the Dodgers' nominee for The Roberto Clemente Award, presented by Chevrolet. The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972. Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner of the award through Oct. 5. The fan-ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Pirates legend. The winner will be announced during the World Series. Retired Astros outfielder Craig Biggio won the award last year, and Steve Garvey won it in 1981 while with the Dodgers. In addition to the video-game party, Loney's Lounge has on four occasions hosted seven children from RBI Los Angeles in premium baseline seats at Dodger Stadium. The kids received a Loney's Lounge T-shirt and met and took photos with Loney during batting practice. Loney also hosted the 2008 Dodgers Dream Foundation Bowling Extravaganza at Lucky Strike Hollywood with Brad Penny, a charity endeavor that raised about $100,000 for the Dodgers Dream Foundation. "I just like to see people smile, have a good time," Loney said. "I think a lot of people like to interact with us, kind of get a feel for who we are." For the second straight year, Loney took part in the Dodgers Community Caravan. He also attended the RBI Hall of Fame Dinner at the Globe Theatre at Universal Studios, where he earned recognition as a Star of the Future. Loney has visited many hospitals this year without provocation or invitation, including the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA and the pediatric ward at White Memorial Hospital in East Los Angeles. He has visited City of Hope Hospital, Washington Accelerated Elementary, Panda Inn and City Walk at Universal Studios for community events as well. For the past three years, Loney has also participated in the Dodger Youth Baseball Camp, speaking to 140 campers ages 7-12 about lessons of baseball and life.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.