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Hoes gets in holiday spirit with annual toy drive

Astros outfielder will even dress up as Santa Claus to benefit needy children

HOUSTON -- Astros outfielder L.J. Hoes grew up in a stable household with parents who were able to provide a good quality of life for him, so he's doing whatever he can to make sure those less fortunate than he was have a memorable Christmas.

Hoes will host his second annual "Gift of Joy" toy drive on Saturday. Hoes hopes to be able to amass 500 donations of toys to give to the St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home in Hyattsville, Md., which is a home for abused, neglected and abandoned children, and pregnant and parenting teenage women.

The toy drive will be held at Looney's Pub in College Park, Md., from 3 to 7 p.m. ET on Saturday. Each guest must present an unwrapped, unopened toy to receive entry into the event, where they will receive two drink tickets and food.

"Coming up as a kid, I was blessed," Hoes said. "My parents were able to provide for me. I was around a lot of people who were truly blessed, and my parents instilled in me as a kid to always give. I'm in a position now where I'm a Major League baseball player, and there's a lot of things I can do to give back to the community. I'm glad I have the opportunity to do this."

Hoes, who this year is teaming up with a pair of community organizations in the Washington, D.C. area, hopes to be able to deliver 1,000 toys to St. Ann's on Christmas Day. Last year, he showed up unexpectedly at St. Ann's with 500 new toys for the children.

"It's the best feeling in the world," Hoes said. "Those kids, some of the parents have abandoned them and some of them are single mothers who aren't able to provide the things they want. Last year, we went and donated toys on Christmas Day, and it was a big success.

"Seeing the smiles on the kids' faces reminds me when I was a kid, when you ask for certain things and get them. I'm trying to do that for these kids that are not expecting much for Christmas."

Hoes is taking things a step further this year. He's dressing up as Santa Claus.

"I'm going to put the whole beard on and stuff, and put a pillow in my shirt for a big belly," Hoes said. "I'll walk around and say 'Ho, Ho, Ho!' and 'Merry Christmas!'"

Hoes, 23, was acquired by the Astros in the deal that sent Bud Norris to the Orioles in July. Hoes played in 47 games with Houston, and he batted .282 with a homer and 10 RBIs while making 40 starts in right field, one in center field and at one designated hitter.

When he's not trying to brighten the lives of kids in his area, Hoes has been working out and trying to stay healthy after being slowed by an oblique injury towards the end of the 2013 season.

"Last year was the first time I played in that many games," Hoes said. "My body wore down at the end of the season. I'm trying to get bigger and stronger and improve my game so I'm able to come to Spring Training and compete for a job."

And he's been keeping up with the moves the Astros -- and other teams in the American League West -- have made this winter.

"It's a tough division, but we have some talent and young arms, and we're going to surprise some people," Hoes said.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, L.J. Hoes