LOS ANGELES -- Joc Pederson and Austin Barnes fit right in with the 300 local schoolchildren who earned an invitation to the Dodgers' annual Children's Holiday Party on Thursday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.Pederson and Barnes jumped right into a dodgeball game as soon as they arrived, much to the delight
LOS ANGELES -- Joc Pederson and Austin Barnes fit right in with the 300 local schoolchildren who earned an invitation to the Dodgers' annual Children's Holiday Party on Thursday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
Pederson and Barnes jumped right into a dodgeball game as soon as they arrived, much to the delight of the next generation of Dodgers fans. Next, the big leaguers crammed into plastic saucers and raced down a snow-covered course in the parking lot outside right field.
"They put a smile on my face," Pederson said after spending time with the overjoyed kids. "It's fun."
"It's awesome," said Barnes, who also stopped by the arts and crafts tables to sign autographs and view the kids' creations. "Obviously, they have the snow out here, the sleds, the dodgeball going. It's a lot for these kids to do, and it's fun to interact with these guys and it's good to see them having a good time."
Pederson and Barnes, two important pieces for the Dodgers moving forward, said their interactions at the holiday party brought them back to their childhoods.
"There's nothing like dodgeball and sled rides," Pederson said. "That's as fun as it gets. As an athlete, you can't really ski or snowboard, so I don't really get out to the snow very often, so this is as close as I get and it's awesome."
"We're lucky to hang out with these kids," Barnes said. "It kind of brings you back to your childhood, for sure, playing dodgeball, sled races, going in the snow. It's a good time. We're happy to be a part of it."
Thursday's event was the 13th Children's Holiday Party put on by the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. In addition to dodgeball, arts and crafts and snow elements, the children had lunch, took photos with Santa, got their faces painted and went home with three gifts, including a plastic Dodger-blue bat and ball. A few dozen bikes were also distributed through a raffle.
"The thing that I love so much is to see the joy in their faces," said Dodgers vice president of external affairs and community relations Naomi Rodriguez.
The majority of the kids who were invited are underprivileged. Their school principals picked them based on attendance and grades.
"If it wasn't for this day, many of them wouldn't have a Christmas or a holiday, the kind of holiday you want as a kid -- the bike, the presents," Rodriguez said. "So we're able to give that to them today, and that's what makes me so excited.
"Not only are they coming to the best stadium in the country, but then they're playing with Joc Pederson, they get to take a picture with Santa, they have an awesome lunch with an ice cream bar. As a kid, who doesn't love an ice cream bar? They walk away with a present. They have the full experience. I want them to feel good, the Dodgers want them to know that we love them and they can be whatever they want."
Dodgers alumni Dennis Powell, Billy Ashley and Matt Luke were also on hand to help out, wearing their Dodgers uniforms and Dodger-blue Santa hats.
Local schools partaking in the party included: Allesandro Elementary School, Ann Street Elementary School, Castelar Elementary School, Clifford Math and Technology Magnet Elementary School, Dorris Place Elementary School, Elysian Heights Elementary School, Logan Span Elementary School and Solano Avenue Elementary School.
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.