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Snow can't deter Players Alliance's mission

@kennlandry
January 11, 2021

A snow storm -- or as close as you can get to it in the heart of Texas -- couldn't halt the most recent stop on The Players Alliance tour in Dallas on Sunday afternoon. The Players Alliance, which was created prior to the 2020 MLB season, is a group

A snow storm -- or as close as you can get to it in the heart of Texas -- couldn't halt the most recent stop on The Players Alliance tour in Dallas on Sunday afternoon.

The Players Alliance, which was created prior to the 2020 MLB season, is a group of more than 150 current and former Black professional baseball players at all levels hoping to improve representation of Black Americans in the sport.

The Players Alliance and Pull Up Neighbor -- a Black-owned community response team -- partnered to reach and serve communities in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including the 33-city tour.

"I think this is huge," said Rangers pitcher Taylor Hearn. "It's my hometown, you know? I was born and raised here. I love giving back to my community, and for them to want to put Dallas on the map was huge. I definitely wasn't going to miss that for sure. [Black players], we always talk about trying to give back to our communities, but it's kind of hard. But now a lot of the older guys formed this Alliance and make it a little bit easier for guys like me to use them as avenues."

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Hearn said he first heard about The Players Alliance from Curtis Granderson through an Instagram direct message over the summer. Granderson is the president of the Alliance and spearheaded a lot of the work from the group during and after the 2020 season.

When players from across the league donated their Jackie Robinson Day salaries to The Players Alliance, MLB matched the investment with an additional $1 million worth of COVID-19 supplies and baseball equipment for underserved communities for the tour.

The Players Alliance Pull Up 18-wheeler made stops at the Rangers' newly-opened Globe Life Field and the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy to pick up items before setting up shop at the Oak Cliff Community Center right outside of Dallas.

Both Rangers players and staff, as well as other Dallas-area players, attended the event.

Current players like Nationals first baseman Josh Bell, Cleveland outfielder Delino DeShields and Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw joined Hearn in handing out food through a pop-up pantry, COVID-19 supplies and baseball equipment to families in need in the DFW area.

Former outfielder Torii Hunter and former pitcher and current Rangers general manager Chris Young also attended.

"It's an exciting time for us as baseball players after a really rough 2020," said Bell, who is from Irving, Texas. "But for us to come together as a collective unit and continue the push towards bringing more Black people into the league and just trying to help out and communities that need help, it's great."

Kershaw, who is also from the DFW area, said he just showed up and offered to volunteer when he heard the event would be in Dallas.

"It's just really cool to see all the cars lined up, all the people come in to get all their stuff," Kershaw said. "Just the amount of people that came out to volunteer is really cool, especially because it doesn't always snow in Dallas. So this is kind of amazing that we're doing this on a snow day.

"It's awesome anytime you can do something like this and just be so hands on and get to see the families affected and the community impacted by this. What The Players Alliance is doing is awesome. And so I'm just thankful to be a very tiny small part of it."

The Dodgers ace has been an ally throughout The Players Alliance's efforts this year. DeShields emphasized in a Zoom press conference how important it is for white players across MLB to actively support The Players Alliance's causes.

"I think it will just be a more powerful statement, if the whole group, the whole fraternity of baseball, comes together and wants to make a difference," DeShields said.

DeShields wants to continue to do more within the Black community. The Players Alliance tour was the perfect opportunity for him to do that, from the participation in Jackie Robinson Day to the Pull Up Neighbor tour and everything in between.

In the NFL and NBA, Black players are the majority and it's easy for kids to look up to them. DeShields wants to continue to get his face, and the faces of other Black MLB players, in front of children across the country.

"I know over the past couple years, I've been really like involved on social media," DeShields said. "I think it's just creating those opportunities for the youth to see us and just be able to talk with us and give them tips. Even if it's one kid, that goes a long way. So you know, we want to change the dynamic of the sport, try to get the best athletes out there in the sport. And I think all around us could make the game better at the end of the day."

Young, also the executive vice president of the Rangers, wants to show that the club is "synonymous" with community service. He emphasized how important it is to connect with fans and be a source of good in the community.

"I think [The Players Alliance tour] is a tremendous event that benefits a lot of people who are very meaningful to the Texas Rangers, but also to Major League Baseball and connected with our community," Young said. "I think it's the beauty of being a professional athlete or a sports organization is the opportunity to give back. This is a great event. And we're happy to be here and participate in it."

Kennedi Landry is a reporter/editor for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @kennlandry.