For Hearn, few days are bigger than JRD

April 15th, 2021

Rangers left-hander gave his No. 42 jersey from his very first Jackie Robinson Day as a Major Leaguer in 2020 to his mom and dad, fulfilling a promise he made to them.

“Lord willing, I’ll definitely have a lot more,” Hearn said. “It was just emotional because that was my first one ever. The first one, it’s always inevitable that you get emotional. You see guys all the time in the Major Leagues wearing it. I always thought as a kid like, ‘Man I can't wait to wear that 42,’ and just to be able to say I played on Jackie Robinson Day, it was definitely a big, big day for me last year.”

Jackie Robinson Day is probably the most important day on the calendar for Hearn, maybe even more than his birthday, he said on Zoom. For him, it’s a good time to reflect on the things Robinson and other early Black MLB players had to go through and how thankful he is to be able to play this game.

On Jackie Robinson Day, Hearn is the only Black American player on the Rangers' active roster, with outfielders Willie Calhoun and Khris Davis rehabbing from Spring Training injuries. Hearn immediately took notice of that when Calhoun and Davis were placed on the injured list during camp.

It’s not a new revelation to Hearn, being the only Black player on a team or with an organization. When he was in Double-A with the Pirates in 2018, he was the only Black pitcher in the entire organization. It was tough then -- and it still is for him sometimes today.

“I've kind of gotten used to it now and [I've] been doing it growing up my whole life. It's nothing too crazy,” Hearn said. “I mean it does suck, but it is what it is. There's not that many of us playing this game, [but] I don't really try to get too wrapped up in it and just continue doing my thing. I know I stick out like a sore thumb, it’s hard to miss a 6-foot-6 Black guy.

“That's always been my biggest goal, to try to continue to push the narrative and try to make ... try to somewhat influence [Black guys] to play baseball.”

On Wednesday, in an effort to do exactly that, Hearn got up in front of the entire clubhouse and gave a speech in accordance with The Players Alliance video for Jackie Robinson Day. The Players Alliance is a nonprofit organization founded by a group of active and former Black MLB players with the goal of improving representations of Black Americans in baseball.

During his speech, Hearn urged his teammates of all races to support the community and show their faces at events around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Manager Chris Woodward said Hearn “spoke from the heart” and agreed that it takes more than just the Black players when it comes to diversifying the sport.

“I think that it goes for Black and white baseball players, but I've kind of made it a point to the guys here and especially last year as well, you know whenever I'm hosting camps or doing stuff in the community, I want all of them to be able to come if they could,” Hearn said. “Because that'd be huge for a young Black kid to sit there and see Joey Gallo or David Dahl right next to me.”

Hearn said he and a number of his teammates are among the over 230 Major League players donating their Jackie Robinson Day salaries to The Players Alliance. The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation will also match the players’ donations to The Players Alliance.

Hearn emphasized that the decision came without hesitation, and he wants to use the platform he has as a professional athlete to work to get more Black kids into baseball and help the community. The Players Alliance raised more than $1 million for Jackie Robinson Day in 2020.

“Being an African American guy that plays for the Texas Rangers, to be honest with you, the years I've always watched the Rangers, they’ve never really had any Black guys,” Hearn said. “So, this for sure was huge for me. We've been taking steps in the right direction to continue giving back to the communities, especially today.

“Today is very special to me, but it feels a lot better to have guys [on the team] that are wearing this shirt, just supporting the cause and donating their salary to help other people.”