Penny spends off-day fishing with fans

Penny reels 'em in on off-day

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Growing up in Oklahoma, Brad Penny caught his first fish at a very early age, and he hasn't stopped throwing his line into the water since. But for Duilio Belmontes, a 10-year-old from South Gate, Calif., the opportunities to reel in a big one have been few and far between.

Yet Thursday afternoon, with the Dodgers enjoying an off-day during a six-game homestand against the Mets and the Astros, both Penny and Belmontes found themselves on a boat called the Native Son as the Dodger pitcher hosted his second annual fishing trip with Daniel Hernandez, one of the sport's top fishermen.

"It's nice to give the kids an opportunity to do something they've never done before," said Penny. "We visit a lot of schools and hospitals, so it's cool to change it up every once in a while."

The trip, which was hosted by the Daniel Hernandez Youth Foundation and presented by the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, brought 40 youngsters from San Miguel Elementary School and the Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach out for an afternoon on the ocean, where many of the youngsters had a chance to go fishing for the first time.

Xavier Godinez took home the most fish at day's end, as he reeled in five. It was an impressive day for the youngster, who can now look up to Penny, both on the mound and with the rod and reel. The All-Star right-hander makes a trip each offseason to Brazil, where he fishes on the Amazon, including one trip where his group brought in 1,200 fish during a week-long span.

"If you're having a tough time reeling a fish in," said Penny, "one of the guides will just jump in the river, swim down the line, and help you grab it."

On the Native Son, Hernandez had several volunteer helpers for the children along with Penny. And in Brazil, the catch of the day is mostly piranha and peacock bass, whereas Thursday's youngsters were snagging mostly mackerel and sculpin.

Then there's Penny's biggest (and most ironic) catch, a 200-pound marlin that he caught in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico after spending five seasons with the big league club in Florida of the same name.

"We caught eight marlins that day, so I told the captain just to take us back," he said. "That was more than enough."

Penny's advice to the kids Thursday was simple -- drop the bait, let it hit the bottom, and have fun. There was no one keeping score and many of the youngsters were just happy to be out of school for the afternoon.

"A lot of them have never been fishing, so hopefully they had enough fun that they'll want to come back," said Penny.

Belmontes, who arrived wearing his Dodgers jersey, can be counted among that group. Despite not catching any fish on Thursday, he returned home with something even better.

"It was a fun experience to learn how hard it is to catch a mackerel," he said of his second time out on a fishing expedition. "But the best part was getting stuff signed by Brad Penny."