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After trade home, Hoes hosts fourth toy drive

O's outfielder donates to St. Ann's Center for Children, Youth, and Families

BALTIMORE -- It's been an eventful holiday season for outfielder L.J. Hoes. Traded back to the Orioles the day before Thanksgiving, Hoes hosted his fourth annual "Gift of Joy" Toy Drive on Saturday in Hanover, Md., with some help from his new organization.

The result was a wildly successful drive, with somewhere between 1,500-2,000 toys in Hoes' garage waiting to be dropped off to St. Ann's Center for Children, Youth, and Families in Hyattsville, Md.

"The first two years, I had [the toy drive] in College Park, Md., in a bar. Last year, it was an event center in D.C.," said Hoes, who also collected around 200 stuffed animals. "This year, [it was at] Dave & Buster's, and the Orioles getting involved was unbelievable. I couldn't ask for more for the turnout and the backing."

Seven years after being drafted by the O's in the third round, Hoes -- who will spend the holidays with family in Bowie, Md. -- has always wanted to be a fixture in the community. Wearing the orange and black is an added bonus.

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"I missed the familiarity and how comfortable it was with them," Hoes said of rejoining the O's clubhouse. "Getting traded back and having an impact in the community now, to be able to collect toys, this is where I grew up. I want to be a face for the African-American kids and all kids from the area, that they can say, 'He's successful and now look what he's doing.' There are ways it can be done [to] hopefully inspire kids."

Hoes, a Washington, D.C. native, attended St. John's College High School, and St. Ann's is part of the same archdiocese. His fiancee, Ciara, also had a tie to the center as her best friend's grandmother works there, making it an easy choice to receive the toys.

For over 150 years, St. Ann's Center for Children, Youth and Families has helped the area's most vulnerable young women and children. St. Ann's Center provides young families with support and guidance in an enriching environment so they can achieve independent living and self-sufficiency.

In years past, Hoes has waited until Christmas Day to drop off all the toys, personally delivering them to the kids. But now that Hoes and Ciara have their own daughter, Jaxen, he brought them on Tuesday and placed them under the tree in advance of Santa's arrival.

Jaxen, 16 months, was around for last Christmas, but now she's got a little more of an understanding of the holiday.

"She's starting to to watch Christmas movies and listen to Christmas music," Hoes said. "I'm just excited to see her face on Christmas morning and for her to see all her gifts."

One particular Christmas gift stands out to Hoes. When he was 5, he unwrapped his first baseball bat under the tree, captured in pictures that are still on display at his mother's house. Hoes hopes he can create those kind of lasting memories for the children involved with St. Ann's.

"I definitely look up to [Orioles outfielder] Adam [Jones]," Hoes said of his friend and teammate's massive effort in the community. "Everyone knows how our relationship is. But even if I didn't have Adam, my family really raised me right. Being about the community, that's something they instilled in me.

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"Like Adam always says, we've been blessed with many opportunities and especially growing up playing inner city baseball, you don't have adequate equipment. You have to go buy bats or gloves. I want kids to be able to have opportunities to play and to go back and have three, four, five, six, different kids to motivate and brighten their day. And hopefully it will inspire them to do that for others. That's how it works to make a difference."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.
Read More: Baltimore Orioles, L.J. Hoes