LOS ANGELES -- Andre Ethier spent his first three seasons in the Majors living in downtown Los Angeles, and he remembers what he used to hear about the area's homeless population."Everyone told me, 'Oh, you're living in LA ...'" the Dodgers right fielder said. "You always hear some of the wise cracks and remarks. I saw how it was and I wasn't intimidated by the fact that maybe it was an area where a lot more homeless, and people who are not necessarily right on their feet, are down and living." Not only was Ethier not intimidated, he wanted to help. He told the Dodgers that he wanted to be involved, and for three straight years he's worked as a volunteer at Union Rescue Mission, the oldest outreach organization for the homeless in Los Angeles, established in 1891. At lunchtime on Wednesday, Ethier helped grill and hand out 500 hot dogs, courtesy of Farmer John, the makers of the Dodger Dog, along with french fries and salad. He signed autographs, shook hands and took pictures, and the Dodgers provided 500 blankets for the lunch guests as well. In some way, it was still business as usual for URM, which has a full-time staff of about 200 and serves an average of 3,000 meals daily, according to spokeswoman Kitty Davis-Walker. That includes breakfast, lunch and dinner at one of the largest non-profits dedicated to the homeless in the country. Patricia Hicks, a Los Angeles woman who said she has been homeless for two years, proudly wore a Dodgers varsity jacket, which featured patches commemorating the Dodgers' five championships since moving to Los Angeles. Temperatures of nearly 90 degrees were no deterrent. "I wear my jacket no matter what," Hicks said. "Hot, cold." For Ethier, who signed the jacket, Hicks and the others he met were a reminder that Dodgers fans are everywhere, in all varieties. "People might not realize that a Dodgers fan isn't one stereotype person," Ethier said. "It's all aspects of life, it doesn't matter where they're at in their life, whether it be living comfortably or living on the streets. These people are still die-hard fans, and follow us and pay attention. I just had someone say, 'I saw that great catch you made in Atlanta the other night.'
"I've had a few chances to come down here, get involved, get my hands dirty somewhat with what's going on," Ethier said. "They want to be treated like everyday regular people. They don't want to feel different, sometimes in tough situations they just feel unwanted or unneeded. Sometimes that smile and a handshake really does make a difference. I would be lying if I said I never turned a shoulder on a homeless person I've crossed on the street before ... this let's you realize that sometimes all they need is that handshake and hello. It really does brighten up their day."Ethier might have to watch what kind of promises he makes, though. He told Hicks he was looking to add another banner year to her jacket. He qualified that statement afterward. "I said by the time I'm done here in L.A., hopefully I can add another patch to that," Ethier said. "I'm not guaranteeing it this year, next year or the year after. But hopefully one of the years I'm here playing with the Dodgers, we can help add a patch to that jacket."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.