Rangers left-hander Taylor Hearn covered a wide range of topics during his webinar with players from Major League Baseball's RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program on Monday. Hearn talked about pitching. He talked about the importance he placed on education as a college player. And he talked, of course,
Rangers left-hander Taylor Hearn covered a wide range of topics during his webinar with players from Major League Baseball's RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program on Monday. Hearn talked about pitching. He talked about the importance he placed on education as a college player. And he talked, of course, about the rodeo.
Yes, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Hearn is quite an accomplished calf-roper, and, what's more, he comes from a long line of them. Hearn's grandfather, in fact, is a legend in this field, and owns a bit of history -- Cleo Hearn was the first African American to attend college on a rodeo scholarship. He was also the first African American to win a major calf roping event in 1970 at the Denver National Rodeo.
Cleo passed his love for calf-roping to his four sons, and that was passed along to the next generation, including Taylor, who first started riding horses when he was around 4 years old.
"The very first sport I ever did was rodeo," Hearn said to an international online audience made up of young people from several RBI programs. "It's the first sport I ever did, and it's something that will never leave me."
Hearn's webinar was one of several online events MLB has organized this week to engage players and fans, even while not being able to do so in person. Hearn, a native of Royse City, Texas, was presented with a number of questions from the audience, ranging from his general interests away from the field (he likes to cook, he loves pizza and he's watched every episode of all 18 seasons of "Family Guy"), how he's been staying busy during the shutdown, and what advice he has for young people to get through these tough times.
Hearn also talked about the importance of education, and taking advantage of academic opportunities while pursuing athletics. As a collegian, with no guarantees that a good amateur baseball career will translate into professional success, Hearn made sure he was dedicating as much time to his schooling as he was to baseball.
"Not everybody is going to make it to the Majors," Hearn said. "That's why I took school seriously. If something were to happen, heaven forbid I got injured and I couldn't play, I want to be able to go back to school and just jump back in and be able to finish and not think, 'I really regret not taking the classes seriously,' where you have to start over again."
Friday marks Juneteenth, and against that backdrop, MLB has several webinars planned for the week with the goal to reach out to young people, and touch on social issues within the sport. On Tuesday, MLB will present a roundtable chat titled "Being Black in Baseball & America," hosted by MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds and featuring Major League players Josh Bell, Jon Duplantier and Sterling Sharp, and MLB education ambassador Sharon Robinson. The show will be available on MLB's YouTube channel.
Monday's session with Hearn was specifically geared toward young people who would be playing baseball right now but instead are, like so many in the country, absorbing the weight of trying times that serve as a sharp contrast to carefree summers of the past.
Hearn encouraged the kids to use this time to set goals, and also, communicate.
"Try to understand, but also be open and listen," he said. "I think the biggest problem we have is when we have conversations with people, it's very hard if nobody wants to sit back and listen. It's something that I've always embraced and something that's always been part of me.
"I've always been a good listener. People say to me, 'You don't say much.' I say, I'm listening to you. I'm trying to get your perspective -- whether that's in baseball or whether it's in life. Especially with stuff that's going on right now."
After one participant asked about what white coaches and administrators can do to promote inclusion in youth leagues, Hearn shared some of his experiences of often being the lone black player on his baseball teams growing up.
He again stressed the importance of communication.
"Even now, at times, in some of the clubhouses in pro ball, I was the only black guy on the team," Hearn said. "The coaches were very nice and respectful people, but I think it's just about being open -- don't be so timid to have these conversations. At the end of the day, it's not about color. We're all trying to win games for each other and for the team and the coaches."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.