Dad built backyard cage for Loney
Dodgers slugger grew up taking batting practice with father
LOS ANGELES -- James Loney wasn't sure if he was old enough to talk, but he was old enough to play ball.
His family lived in a house behind Bayland Park in suburban Houston, where his father would play softball when he wasn't programming computers.
"I was just a baby," said the Dodgers first baseman, "and I would watch my dad play. So, for as long as I can remember, it was always my dad and playing ball. Because we lived next to this park, balls would come over the fence into our backyard, and we'd pick them up and play."
Father's Day reminds Loney of those days, although in some ways, he's not that far removed from Bayland Park. He still stays in his bedroom in that house when he visits during the offseason.
Loney credits his father, Marion, with instilling a work ethic that has helped get him to the Major Leagues after being drafted in the first round in 2002 out of high school.
"He taught me to never give up, to get the most out of my ability," said Loney. "He didn't push me to play baseball. But he pushed me to be the best at whatever I do."
Loney said his father, now 52, played basketball at the State University of New York at Oswego, where he met Loney's mother, but an injury derailed a possible professional career.
Loney recalls attending his first Major League baseball game at the Astrodome with his father, although he wrestled with a decision on his favorite team. He said his father, being from South Carolina, closely followed the Atlanta Braves. Being from Houston, being an Astros fan was natural.
"I liked the Braves too, because they had a lot of good players," he said. "But the Braves played the Astros a bunch of times in the playoffs and I didn't know who to root for."
Marion helped coach his son, who split time in high school between first base and the mound. Some professional scouts had Loney ticketed for a pitching career, but not the Dodgers or Loney.
"My dad built a batting cage in our backyard," he said. "The coach from the team I played for had a cage and I always went over there. But he told my dad he could get the materials, and my dad built one so I'd have one at home."
Loney said the logistical demands of professional baseball prevent him from celebrating Father's Day at home and that finding the perfect gift for his father isn't much easier.
"He never wants anything," Loney said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.