Scheppers no stranger to bringing Christmas cheer

Scheppers no stranger to bringing Christmas cheer

ARLINGTON -- A big truck pulled up to a warehouse in North Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday morning, just across the street from historically restored LaGrave Field. Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers and his wife, Jessica, were among those present on a morning chilled by an Arctic blast to unload toys for Cowboy Santas.

Scheppers is the honorary spokesman for the Rangers' participation in the 2014 Cowboy Santas Toy Drive. He is also carrying on a family tradition that started back home in Southern California.

"My family, when I was growing up, always kind of adopted a family and took some kids in and kind of gave them a Christmas," Scheppers said. "To join up with Cowboy Santas is kind of a great thing."

Scheppers is from Laguna Niguel, Calif, in Orange County, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. It is an affluent suburb on the Pacific Coast, but there are other inland areas of Orange County that aren't as prosperous.

"My family -- my mom and her three sisters -- we adopted families out of Glendora, which is kind of a rough area of Southern California," Scheppers said. "My aunt is a principal at a local high school, so we would take some of the families from the high school that were struggling and give them a Christmas.

"We would buy them gifts and let them have their Christmas traditions, plus the necessities for the year, whatever the kids needed: toys, clothes, toothpaste, all the essentials you would need. It started when I was about 16; that's when we stopped giving presents to ourselves and started giving to others."

Scheppers wants to continue the family tradition, and Cowboy Santas is a good place to start. The project was founded in 1981 for children 12 and under, and it still is going strong 33 years later

Carol Brown, the operation liaison for Cowboy Santas, said the project brings Christmas to approximately 10,000 children throughout Tarrant County. The warehouse is full of everything from bicycles, sporting goods and dolls to books, games and educational tools.

"We don't just give one toy," Brown said. "We give the children a variety of things, so they can have a complete Christmas. We don't give it to the kids. We give it to the parents, so they can uphold the traditions of Christmas. Each child gets six or seven gifts."

For the next two weeks, Rangers fans can drop off new, unwrapped toys or books for Cowboy Santas at either the Texas Rangers Grand Slam Gift Shop at Globe Life Park or the Rangers team stores at either 316 Main Street in Fort Worth, Texas, or 2222 McKinney Avenue in Dallas. Items may also be dropped off at all Fort Worth Police and Fire Departments.

On Tuesday, Dec. 16, the Rangers will sponsor a Cowboy Santas Toy Drive at the Vandergriff Plaza beyond center field at Globe Life Park. The event runs from 4-7 p.m. CT, with current and former Rangers on hand to sign autographs along with other activities. Fans attending are asked to bring new, unwrapped toys and books for children 12 and under.

"It's the time of giving," Scheppers said. "You know it's a hard time for a lot of families, and kind of stressful. To be able to take some of the stress off some families and be able to give them a nice Christmas is what it's all about."

Scheppers is staying busy now that he is fully recovered from the elbow problems that sidelined him for much of last season. On Dec. 11, he will be signing autographs at the Fort Worth team shop in another holiday event to benefit the Cowboy Santas.

"This is the first offseason I didn't have a surgery or anything," Scheppers said. "There is nothing going on, so I have been able to jump into the community a little more, and I am just trying to help out as much as I can."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.