Angels able to give back to hometown community

Angels able to give back to hometown community

ANAHEIM -- Major League players regularly use their stature to impact the community where they play, an often overlooked responsibility they don't often take for granted. But it takes a deeper meaning when they can influence the same area where they grew up while playing for the hometown team.

On the Angels, many of them are getting that chance now. It's the benefit that comes with playing on a club that's located in a national hot bed for amateur talent.

On the 2013 squad, the Angels could have nine players on the active roster who are very much associated with Southern California, including four-fifths of the starting rotation. Starters Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson, plus reliever Ryan Madson and outfielder Mark Trumbo all grew up here; pitchers Garrett Richards (Riverside) and Kevin Jepsen (Anaheim) were born here; and catcher Hank Conger went to high school here (Huntington Beach).

In a nomadic profession with few real loyalties, these guys are all able to give back to the communities that helped shape them this holiday season.

"It's everybody's dream to play for their hometown team," Wilson said. "But not only that, you get to donate time, money and love to your hometown community. That's even better. It's a big draw, and it's great for me because I've always wanted to be able to make a difference in the offseason. Now I can."

The close proximity has allowed Wilson to make stops at several different hospitals this offseason, continuing his support in the fields of hematology and oncology through his Children's Charities. It also helped Weaver become a Special Olympics Sports Ambassador, making a surprise appearance at the two-day Fall Games in Fountain Valley, Calif., earlier this month. And it made it easy for Trumbo to annually attend the team's holiday party, which provides a memorable Christmas for hundreds of underprivileged kids.

"I look forward to it every year," said Trumbo, who has been coming to the event since his days in the low levels of the Angels' system. "It's almost a no-brainer. If I'm in town or available, I'm going to come to it. Seeing how happy these kids are, and how excited these kids get, you can't help but get pumped up, too."

Trumbo grew up a big Angels fan, attending several games as a kid and admiring the comparable Tim Salmon.

This offseason, he got some company in that department.

Hanson, acquired in a trade that sent reliever Jordan Walden to the Braves, moved from Oklahoma to Southern California at 2 years old, attended high school in the Redlands, went to college in Riverside and naturally grew up an Angels fan.

Vargas, acquired from the Mariners for Kendrys Morales, didn't really have a favorite team growing up, but he used to watch his second cousin, former infielder Randy Velarde, when he suited up for the Angels from 1996-99. And when Vargas transferred to Long Beach State University for his senior year, he and Weaver were on the same pitching staff.

"Me and Jered are still good friends and we have a chance to keep up all the time," Vargas said. "He was one of the first people that I talked to after I found out that I was [traded]."

Madson was born in Long Beach, attended high school in Moreno Valley and currently lives in Temecula. When he was negotiating his one-year contract with general manager Jerry Dipoto this offseason, he tried his best to downplay the fact he grew up admiring Troy Percival and Wally Joyner, and always dreamed of one day suiting up for the Angels.

The fact he'll do so now at age 32, far removed from his days at Valley View High School in Riverside County, makes him better equipped to handle it.

"I'm an experienced guy; I know the emotions aren't going to take over, so the timing of this is great," Madson said. "It's not going to get in the way. It's just a thing -- but it's a cool thing to have."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.