Ethiers dedicate Learning Center at Rescue Mission

Ethiers dedicate Learning Center at Rescue Mission

LOS ANGELES -- On Thursday, Andre Ethier and his wife dedicated the Maggie and Andre Ethier Learning Center at the Union Rescue Mission downtown, where the Dodgers outfielder has worked for nearly a decade to raise awareness of hunger and homelessness in Los Angeles.

In partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, a year ago the Ethiers earmarked a $100,000 annual charitable donation (pledged through the contract extension he signed in 2012) to renovate the Learning Center and provide scholarships and educational support.

The irony of the timing was not lost on Ethier, who with Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford have been the subject of trade rumors as the Dodgers try to resolve their outfielder surplus. Ethier doesn't want to be traded, but he doesn't want to be platooned anymore, either.

"I have in my head to come back next year and be a starter," he said. "We've tried the platoon and obviously didn't accomplish any more success than the other way. I'm at a point where I want to be in the lineup every day and play every day, but it's up to them to make the decision. My preference is to stay and play every day."

Ethier said he hasn't spoken to new president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and hasn't issued a trade demand. Three years and $56 million remain on the contract, making Ethier difficult to trade considering the decline in his performance.

Ethier is a two-time All-Star and former Gold Glove Award winner and Silver Slugger winner. But his best season was back in 2009 (31 homers, 106 RBIs). He was off to an MVP start in 2010 before breaking the little finger on his right hand, and he has never reclaimed the power, falling off to only four home runs in 2014, when he lost his starting job behind Kemp, Crawford and Yasiel Puig.

"I'm using the winter to take a step and get myself back to where I need to be," Ethier said. "You can't expect people to give it to you. You've got to earn it. I'm going for it in the offseason, so I will be prepared to compete and win a job.

"[Management] is busy hustling to get the team and the organization to the way they want it to be -- not just setting us up for next year, but for years to come. That's what happens with a shakeup. We really don't need that much on the Major League level. We need a good system top to bottom."

He drew a parallel to what some of the underserved citizens of his adopted hometown need, which he observed up close as a downtown resident during his first two years with the Dodgers.

"I would walk the streets during the day and you don't realize what's happening, but after the game at night, the streets are full of tents and sleeping bags," Ethier said.

He walked into the Union Rescue Mission, introduced himself and asked if he could help. He soon partnered with Farmer John and was on the roof grilling hot dogs with Reverend Andrew Bales.

"We wouldn't be here today without Farmer John," Ethier said.

Later there would be ham and turkey giveaways, and the natural next step was to provide the Mission with a facility that would help those academically to make a better life.

With the Dodgers enlisting vendors and corporate partners, the Learning Center includes 24 desktop computers and was designed and decorated with the same materials and color scheme found in the Dodgers' renovated home clubhouse.

"I am astounded," said Bales. "Here at lowly Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. Who wouldn't want to be associated with the Los Angeles Dodgers? And who wouldn't want to hang out with Andre Ethier and his lovely wife? What an honor for us."

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