DALLAS -- Thanksgiving came early to the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy on Tuesday evening. Rangers players Nomar Mazara, Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronald Guzman were there handing out Thanksgiving dinners to approximately 100 families at the Mercy Street Sports Complex presented by Toyota.
There was turkey and dressing, all the fixings, soft drinks and delicious pies, plus smiles and hugs handed out by the five players on a cool but festive evening, Guzman, the Rangers rookie first baseman celebrating his first Thanksgiving away from the Dominican Republic, was having as much fun as anybody.
"I am really thankful for the opportunity to be able to give back to the community," Guzman said.
"This is awesome," Kiner-Falefa said. "Just given the opportunity to be here and give back means a lot."
The event was just another example of the benefits of the Youth Academy. The complex was built to promote baseball and softball, and give opportunities to boys and girls in North Texas they might not otherwise enjoy. But passing out Thanksgiving dinners goes well beyond baseball.
"One thing we stress is we want to help the community as much as we can because, we support the community, they are going to support us," Gallo said. "That's what we want. We want the community behind us. That's what you do when you are a professional athlete, you help out as much as you can. We love it here, we all stay here and live here, we want to help as much as we can."
The Academy has become a second offseason home for many Rangers players. This was not one of the original intentions of the 17-acre complex, but the state-of-the-art facility has become the perfect spot for Dallas-based players to do their offseason workouts rather than driving all the way to Arlington.
Gallo and Mazara live just five minutes away in downtown Dallas and they were working out at the complex on Tuesday morning long before it was time to pass out Thanksgiving dinners.
"This is an amazing place," Mazara said.
They have an indoor field they can use, made possible by a generous donation from former teammate Adrian Beltre.
Yes, in addition to working out at the complex and passing out dinners, Rangers players also woke up on Tuesday to the news their Hall of Fame-bound teammate has decided to retire.
"I woke up this morning to come here and work out and the first [text] message was from him," Mazara said. "'Hey guys this is it, I'm going home, I'm going to stay here.' Everybody started texting, it was like 'Man.' It's kind of sad, but I'm happy for him, 21 years, it's not easy to do. And the way he did it, he was a legend. Great guy. He made his decision, now we have to step it up. We are going to miss him, but we have to step it up and do our part."
Gallo said the Rangers knew it was a possibility, but it still came as a shock when they finally heard the news.
"It's always kind of shocking and sad to know he is not going to be around as much and be in the clubhouse with us anymore," Gallo said. "But we learned so much from him and he has been so great for our team and organization, he's had a phenomenal career. He is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. I'm just happy I got to share the same field with him."
Beltre is retiring to spend more time with his family. They will have their Thanksgiving dinner at the family home in Southern California. Many others will enjoy Thanksgiving in Dallas courtesy of the Rangers and their Youth Academy.