Valenzuela's efforts extend past playing days

Dodgers legend gives out gifts this holiday season at public housing complex in LA

Valenzuela's efforts extend past playing days

LOS ANGELES -- During a recent live chat with fans on Dodgers.com, club legend and broadcaster Fernando Valenzuela said one of the most enjoyable parts of his post-player life is "doing things in the community."

Only two days earlier, Valenzuela visited Estrada Courts -- an affordable housing complex of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles -- to distribute holiday gifts. HACLA is one of the nation's largest and leading public housing authorities, providing the largest supply of quality affordable housing to city residents.

Valenzuela met with 100 children from the low-income complex, handing out gifts. Estrada Courts is 93 percent Latino.

Valenzuela remains a 100 percent hero to the Latino community of his adopted city. It's been 34 years since Fernando-mania swept the land, 18 years since his retirement from the Major Leagues, and some things have changed. The native Mexican, for example, became a U.S. citizen this year.

What hasn't changed, though, is how Valenzuela is adored by the public. Aside from Vin Scully and Sandy Koufax, Valenzuela consistently receives the loudest ovation when introduced at Dodger Stadium from generations of fans, those who watched him play in real time and those who have heard the stories and seen the video.

"#Ask34 my family loves you man! Mi abuela would take my mom and uncles to games just to see you pitch. You're my favourite player! Thank u," tweeted @Rise_Simba.

Valenzuela will be entering his 14th season as a commentator on the Dodgers' Spanish-language telecasts with Pepe Yniguez.

Valenzuela's community involvement is not limited to the holidays. He has the Amigos de Fernando Program that brings children's groups to games; he's raised money for the Dodgers Foundation by hosting Carne Asada Sundays; he participates in the dedication of Dodgers Dreamfields; he has hosted Little League teams from Mexico at Dodgers games, and each offseason, he serves as the Dodgers' ambassador in Mexico, taking part in diplomatic events.

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