JRD reminds Rangers there's still work to do

Woodward: Increasing Black presence in baseball 'starts with the youth'

August 28th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have a diverse clubhouse, with an active roster that includes players from Korea, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Their roster includes a cross-section of the United States, from Todd Frazier and his deep New Jersey roots to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who is fiercely proud of his unique Hawaiian heritage.

But the Rangers only have two Black American players on the roster -- outfielder Willie Calhoun and pitcher Taylor Hearn. The Rangers are not alone in that regard as the sport celebrates Jackie Robinson Day.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward said baseball needs to find ways to increase the percentage of Black players in the game.

“Baseball is, as a whole, very diverse, when you look at all the different countries represented,” Woodward said. “But, African Americans are at a minimum. I know when I first got into professional baseball, there was obviously a lot bigger percentage. We're not getting as many African Americans to play baseball.

“I think it starts with the youth. I know that there have been a lot of initiatives to try to create more opportunities for them to play, from the younger ages. I think that's where it starts. That's where you build the love for the game and you get these athletes that become baseball players.”

The first MLB Youth Academy opened in Compton, Calif., in 2006. There are now eight in operation across the country, including the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy in West Dallas. The Mercy Street complex opened in 2017. Those facilities serve as some of the anchors for the many MLB initiatives aimed at increasing Black and Latino participation in baseball.

Major League Baseball chose to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day on Aug. 28 for two reasons. It’s the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, which the Robinson family attended, and it also is the date in 1945 when Robinson and Branch Rickey met to discuss his future as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In conjunction with the celebration, MLB announced a partnership extension with the JRF Scholarship Program, the Jackie Robinson Museum and the annual JRF ROBIE Awards. The extension is through 2023 and includes a $3.5 million commitment on behalf of MLB.

Rangers third base coach Tony Beasley’s uncle played for the Rangers in 1977. Lew Beasley was one of nine Black players on the Rangers' roster that season. Now, there are two.

“We need more [Black players] in the game, for sure,” Woodward said. “I think it's important, especially being Jackie Robinson Day. Celebrating the first African American player would be awesome for baseball to really highlight and just show, 'Hey, this is where we were.’ We've got to get back to bringing back more African Americans into the game. Because this man started it all … and we've got to find a way to get them back into the game.”

Rangers announce JRD initiatives
The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and Germania Insurance are partnering to donate $42,000 to a number of organizations, including The Jackie Robinson Foundation, Impact Venture, 100 Black Men of Dallas and Fort Worth, Interfaith Ministries, and the NAACP chapters of Arlington, Dallas, and Fort Worth.

The pregame ceremonies on Friday featured pre-recorded first pitches by Jonathan Kidd, a Dodgers Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar alumnus, and Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy scholar-athletes Gregory and Greylon Lawrence.

Rangers and Dodgers players and coaches also collaborated on a video honoring the legacy of Jackie Robinson that was shown pregame on the Globe Life Field video boards.

“Jackie Robinson stood up for something and it’s the reason why we get to play today,” catcher Jose Trevino said. “I get to play this beautiful game of baseball. I get to 'come to work' -- this isn’t work for me -- but I get to do it because of Jackie Robinson.”

Santana placed on IL
The Rangers have placed utility player on the injured list with a strained right elbow. Santana has been dealing with arm issues since Summer Camp and has played in just 15 of the Rangers' first 30 games.

was called up from alternate camp to replace Santana, who had been playing first base because of his arm and throwing limitations. Guzman was on the Opening Day roster, but played in just one game and was 1-for-4 before being sent down.

The Rangers also scratched from their Friday lineup because of continued issues with a right eye infection. This is the third game he has missed because of the condition.