James Loney, the 19th overall draft pick in 2002, batted .331 with 15 home runs and 67 RBIs in 98 games last season to earn the job as the Dodgers' first baseman and finish seventh in last year's National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. A Houston native who turns 24 next week, Loney recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you gaining comfort in your third season with Los Angeles?
Loney: It's great. We have a great atmosphere here, and that helps me be comfortable. I've played with a lot of these guys for a while now. That's important, I feel.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Having spent some time in this city, what do you like to do in the area away from Dodger Stadium?
Loney: There is usually something going on. I like to hang out and go out to eat. Sometimes I go out to Hollywood, and sometimes I go down to the beach.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Your numbers suggest you're having a strong start. How do you feel about the first month of the season?
Loney: I think that success has been a bit up and a bit down. I feel good at the plate, though. I feel relaxed, and I feel confident. I just want to try and keep that up.
MLBPLAYERS.com: At what point does it go from being a "good start" to a "good season" for you?
Loney: At the end of the season. Personal success goes hand in hand with the success of your team. You look at what you did to help the team. You see how far your team got -- whether you made the playoffs or not. That's the main thing, in my opinion. It's about what it takes to win, not what your stats are.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Last year, you hit for a high average, and you were a good run producer. Which of those two categories means more to you?
Loney: I like to drive runs in. I had more than 60 RBIs. That was the number that stuck out to me when I looked back. It showed that I helped the team.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Last year, you played your first game in your native Houston. What was it like to play at Minute Maid Park?
Loney: It was a very exciting time for me. It was very good. I had a lot of people there, and I hit a home run in my first game there. That was great, obviously. Playing in a place where you grew up and followed the team that plays there is special.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You were a prolific pitcher in high school. What did you like about being out on the mound?
Loney: I liked it a lot. I'm competitive, and it played well to that competitive nature. In high school, we would play two games a week. I would pitch in one of them and play first base in the other game.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you think Joe Torre knows you might be a pitching candidate in an emergency situation up here?
Loney: He knows. He knows. I try and bring it up to him every once in a while.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You are very active in the community and the RBI Program, in particular. Why is that program so appealing to you?
Loney: I played in it in 1999. It is great to see that it is still going strong. It gives kids an opportunity. It is something that provides a base for younger kids growing up. With some of the Major League guys helping out, it helps to show them just how fun this game is to play.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you think you would be where you are at today had it not been for RBI?
Loney: You never know. The exposure was great. It allowed me to travel, and, when we went and played at the Disney Resort, it let us play against some good competition. I remember those games well, and the RBI Program as a whole really helped me.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.