One of the largest rescue missions of its kind in the United States and the oldest in Los Angeles is encouraging supporters to vote for Los Angeles Dodgers star James Loney to become this year's winner of Major League Baseball's most prestigious off-field honor.
Loney, who is the LA Dodgers' nominee for the annual Roberto Clemente Award, will be pitted against the 29 other players selected by their respective teams to be recognized as the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team.
Since 1972, Major League Baseball annually has presented an award, originally known as The Commissioner's Award. The award is presently named after the 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The award perpetuates Clemente's legacy and character by recognizing current-day players who truly understand the value of helping others.
"Roberto Clemente was an amazing player on the diamond, and an even better man off the field," said Ed Peper, the North American vice president of Chevrolet, the award's sponsor, according to MLB.com.
"These 30 leaders help to keep Roberto's legacy alive," Peper added, "by selflessly giving back to their communities in so many ways."
As is done each year, a panel of baseball dignitaries – including Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig and Clemente's widow, Vera – will select a winner from a list of nominees, joined once again by baseball fans who have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner by casting their vote for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 5. The MLB.com fan ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by the special selection panel.
Union Rescue Mission, which has dedicated itself to serving the poor and homeless since it was established in 1891, is rallying behind LA Dodgers nominee James Loney, who has been active with Christian nonprofit organization.
"I met James Loney during his rookie year, on Christian Day at Dodger Stadium, and he was very friendly and outgoing as he had his picture taken with those of us from KKLA Radio that day," recalled the Rev. Andrew (Andy) J. Bales, CEO of Union Rescue Mission, in his corporate blog.
"He and his wonderful teammate, Andre Ethier, have taken an active interest in URM," he continued. "Andre has even grilled hot dogs on the roof with us, and James Loney has a wonderful outreach with young people in Los Angeles through Loney's Lounge."
After having taken part in Houston's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program as an aspiring youth baseball player, Loney designed the 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.
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.
And for the past three years, Loney has participated in the Dodger Youth Baseball Camp, speaking to 140 campers ages 7-12 about lessons of baseball and life.
"I just like to see people smile, have a good time," Loney told MLB.com. "I think a lot of people like to interact with us, kind of get a feel for who we are."
After receiving his team's Roberto Clemente Award, Loney honored Union Rescue Mission as his charity of choice, handing the organization a check for $7,500.
"Should he also win the overall Roberto Clemente Award, URM will receive a gift of $30,000," Bales exclaimed.
In addition to the $30,000, Chevy will donate a Chevy vehicle to the national winner's charity of choice and an additional $30,000 will be donated by Chevy to Roberto Clemente Sports City, a not-for-profit organization in Carolina, Puerto Rico, designed to provide recreational sports activities for children. Additionally, Chevy will donate $7,500 to the charity of choice of each of the 30 Club recipients.
This year, voting fans will also be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, when the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy will be announced.
Past winners of the Roberto Clemente Award include Al Leiter, Tony Gwynn, Sammy Sosa, Willie Mays, Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Kirby Puckett.
On the Web:
Voting for the MLB overall Roberto Clemente Award at http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/fan_forum/chevyclemente/index.jsp.