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Clemente's legacy lives on in Loney

Clemente's legacy lives on in Loney

LOS ANGELES -- James Loney works with kids in the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program because he remembers once being one of those kids.

"A lot of guys around baseball try to give back," said Loney, the Dodgers' candidate for this year's Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. "Maybe it's a charity that becomes important because someone in their family is affected.

"For me, RBI was a great experience. I got to go to Disneyworld at a young age (15) and played against different countries. It was an unforgettable experience."

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All 30 nominees have immersed themselves in the type of humanitarian and community efforts that distinguished the life of Clemente, a life that ended at age 38 on New Year's Eve, 1972, when the plane he was using to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims crashed.

Fans will once again have the opportunity to participate in the selection of the national winner. They can cast votes for any of the 30 club nominees through Oct. 8.

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 Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Hall of Fame right fielder.

Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip for four to the 2010 World Series to see the national winner presented with the Roberto Clemente Award.

Loney said the Clemente Award promotes the unselfish acts of many of his fellow players.

"For the most part, no matter if it's working with RBI or visiting a hospital, it's the interaction with the people that I enjoy the most," said Loney.

Loney is a graduate of the Houston RBI program and continually gives back by hosting kids from the Los Angeles RBI program at several home games throughout the season.

"The most rewarding thing for me is not signing autographs or pictures, but just talking to the kids and getting to see other people and hopefully motivate them to one day feel the same way," Loney said. "A lot of people assume that if they're not high-profile, they can't make an impact. But anybody can; it's just a matter of wanting to do it."

As part of the "Loney's Lounge" program, James annually hosts a video game party for the RBI kids after a select afternoon game. This year, teammates Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Kenley Jansen and A.J. Ellis came along with James, and the kids were delighted to hang out with actor Verne Troyer, famous for his portrayal of "Mini-Me" in the Austin Powers movies.

For the third straight year, Loney played host for The Dodgers Dream Foundation Charity Bowling Tournament at Lucky Strike Lanes L.A. Live, which raised more than $110,000 for the foundation. James received huge support from sponsors, fans, celebrities and his teammates and coaches who attended the event.

In addition, Loney donated $7,500 to dedicate two bowling lanes to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, so youngsters battling cancer could spend a night having fun with the Dodgers and their families.

Loney was on hand to greet 50 youngsters from the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, who took part in the Major League Baseball Players Association's Buses for Baseball program. Youngsters watched batting practice from on the field behind home plate and met James, received autographs and enjoyed the game from field-level seats.

For the second consecutive year, Loney participated in a calendar photo shoot with children from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, with the goal of finding permanent homes for these children.

Loney also is an annual participant in the Dodgers Community Caravan and Make-A-Wish fulfillments. As part of this passion, he regularly makes hospital visits in the Los Angeles area.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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