Jon Jay returns to roots in Florida to help Boys & Girls Club

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay would walk down the block from his childhood home to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade location on 32nd Avenue and U.S. Highway 1.

As an 8-year-old, a few of his teammates included Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso, Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez and former Orioles infielder Robert Andino.

"It's really where I started off," Jay said. "People see me now in the Major Leagues, and I was fortunate. That's where the long journey started. That's where I fell in love with the game of baseball."

Jay, who will enter his fifth big league season in 2014, hosted the Jon Jay FMSbonds Celebrity Bowling Challenge Friday night at Lucky Strike Miami Beach.
The event raised more than $50,000 during its first two years, and Jay hoped he could eclipse that total with the help of some famous friends.

Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, Cardinals right-hander Jason Motte, Dodgers left-hander Paco Rodriguez, Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr. and Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez were some of those in attendance.

Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, whose group won the bowling challenge in 2012 and finished second in 2013, could not make it in order to take part in Saturday's NatsFest.

Alonso, one of Jay's former childhood and University of Miami teammates, has come every year.

"It's a nice touch by Jon Jay and the family obviously getting everything together," Alonso said. "It's something that's becoming a routine for us. It's fun and enjoyable, and it's obviously for a good cause."

All 14 bowling lanes sold out. This year, they even sold tickets to people who just wanted to hang out by the billiards tables or watch the bowling action. Others danced to top-40 music played by a disc jockey. There was also an auction of memorabilia. 

Proceeds will benefit Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade to support its programs, which range from after-school education to sports programs for 10,000 area youth.

"He never forgot about where he came from," said Alex Rodriguez-Roig, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade. "He's so well-liked that everybody wants to go out and support him and be part of this great event."

It's already made an impact on 14-year-old Santino Lizarazo. He and 15 other kids from the South Beach club took up a lane, trading spares and strikes.

"That's pretty cool because you're at the same level as him when he was younger, so you could be like him," said Lizarazo, who has been with the club for four years. "For him to give back to the community -- we watch his games -- is really cool." 

Jay, who came up with the bowling idea, thought it would be a nice change from the usual charity golf tournaments. 

Bowling encourages everyone, particularly families, to be social. And while helping a good cause. 

"It's the goal for everyone to see we're role models," Jay said. "We want to keep it growing and moving and something that's a long term. It's not just for when I'm playing. It's something I want to do for the rest of my life."

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