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CINCINNATI -- Signed to a four-year contract last winter, Reds ace Aaron Harang wanted to get rooted in the Cincinnati-area community, and he wasted little time achieving that in 2007.
Harang helped start a new ticket program for military families, and he was the first on the Reds to commit to a new shopping program for underprivileged children. He worked with the Reds Community Fund and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
In recognition of his efforts in the community, the Reds made Harang their nominee for the 2007 Roberto Clemente Award for community service.
"We wanted to do a bunch of stuff the past couple of years," said Harang, who arrived in Cincinnati in a July 2003 trade from the A's. "Now that I know I'm going to be here, we got into it a little more."
The Clemente Award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.
The recipient of the award will be announced during the World Series. Ken Griffey Jr. was the Reds' 2006 nominee, and Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado received the Clemente Award last year.
"You always want to give back to the community, especially in the area you play in, and help out," Harang said.
This season, Harang debuted "Aaron's Aces," a ticket program that treated families with a parent serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to a day at the ballpark. Those families received tickets to a Sunday home game, autographs, T-shirts and a chance to meet with Harang personally.
Harang and his wife, Jennifer, hail from San Diego -- a city with a large military presence, because it's home to multiple installations in the area. "That's one of the reasons we got into the program," Harang said. Harang was the first Reds player to commit to the "Shop with a Jock" program. Its sponsor, Dick's Sporting Goods, donated $100 gift cards to each child in need and asked each player to help sponsor five children for $100 each. The children, selected from the Reds' Rookie Success League baseball outreach program, had a shopping spree at one of Dick's area stores with the players.
"They were able to buy things they normally couldn't buy or didn't have enough money to buy," Harang said. "It was a lot of fun. We're trying to do a couple of them a year now. I talked with the people at Dick's, and they're interested in pursuing it."
For Make-A-Wish, Harang participates in the Friday tradition of Reds players spending time with children during batting practice. He's also the first volunteer captain of "Reds Heads," the team's official kids club. The Harang family, which welcomed baby girl Addison last October, also frequently donates sports equipment to their high school alma maters in Southern California.
And that's just a start for someone still trying to establish himself in philanthropy. Harang isn't finished exploring other ways to be active in the community.
"There's so much more that could be done," Harang said. "Charity golf tournaments and the bowling tournament -- things like Junior is doing. You name it, we can do it."