For high school athletes who have earned the opportunity to take their game to the college level, participating in Signing Day is a rite of passage -- a chance to celebrate their accomplishments with friends and family while announcing which college they have chosen and officially inking their National Letter of Intent.
But the opportunity to host traditional Signing Day festivities was taken away from many members of the class of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, a group of athletes from the Texas Rangers Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, presented by Toyota, took the field at Globe Life Field to celebrate a different kind of Signing Day.
Anthony Castaneda entered his senior year at Cedar Hill High School expecting to celebrate his Signing Day at school with his classmates. Instead, he had a table on the third-base line at Globe Life Field, with friends and family in the stands as he symbolically signed his commitment to Cedar Valley College.
“I had a virtual one in my backyard for my school, but it wasn’t the same experience that all the other teams had in past years for my school,” Castaneda said of Signing Day. “But this really feels amazing.”
Melanie Henderson’s table was closer to home plate, an appropriate position for the catcher who played with the Academy’s teams in the RBI Southwest Regionals and Jennie Finch Classic.
Henderson’s original plans to celebrate Signing Day with her class from Irving High School were also derailed. But she had a large contingent of family and friends on hand for Sunday’s Signing Day, wearing baseball T-shirts emblazoned with Lamar State College, where she will take her game next.
“I’m really grateful for the Rangers doing this for us, because I didn’t have an official Signing Day. So I just signed [the letter] at home and sent it in,” Henderson said. “It’s really special that they wanted to do this for us.”
Across the diamond, Rolando Ramirez’s table was stationed on the first-base line and decorated with gear from Wayland Baptist University, where he will suit up next season.
“It’s a special moment, mostly because it’s a dream to be on a Major League field and [to be] able to sign to the college you’ve worked so hard for over the past six years of your life, working hard, grinding every day,” the Duncanville High School product said. “The goal is to hopefully one day play on one of these fields. So signing to play another four years to hopefully get the chance to play at the next level is nice.”
Alicia Gonzalez had been waiting for the Academy’s originally scheduled Signing Day at the facility to ink her letter of intent to play at Rust College next year. When those plans were relocated, the Sunset High School graduate relished the opportunity to sign her letter where the Rangers have been gearing up for a unique 2020 season.
“Not a lot of other people are going to get to say that they’ve even been at the stadium [this year],” Gonzalez said. “It’s a really good opportunity. I’m thankful.”
Twelve of the 14 baseball and softball players from the Academy symbolically signed their National Letters of Intent during the ceremony. Director Juan Leonel Garciga introduced the athletes, and the Globe Life Field video boards featured clips with each player’s highlight photos and accomplishments, as read by Chuck Morgan, the ballpark voice of the Rangers.
Castaneda was grateful to share the moment with fellow Academy athletes from the class of 2020.
“This feels amazing,” Castaneda said. “The opportunity that we get as individual players here -- not just me -- sharing this moment, our opportunity to play a game that we love, it’s amazing.”
Below are the Academy athletes from the class of 2020 who have committed to play college baseball or softball. All except Kylie Cox and Ian Johnson participated in Sunday’s festivities.