Ruggiano, Rangers help out Texas tornado victims

'There can't be a better time than now to get involved,' outfielder says

Ruggiano, Rangers help out Texas tornado victims

RED OAK, Texas -- It made sense that new Texas Rangers outfielder Justin Ruggiano was part of the club's presentation Saturday at Red Oak Junior High.

The school wasn't in use a month ago, but that was before tornadoes ripped through the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Dec. 26. The Red Oak area was hit by a tornado, destroying an elementary school and forcing the school district to move students to the vacant junior high when classes resumed in January.

Ruggiano joined Texas left-hander Sam Freeman and radio announcer Eric Nadel in presenting a $5,000 grant to the Red Oak Baseball and Softball Association to be used for equipment. 

 

Ruggiano had a first-hand view of the destruction caused by the tornadoes that resulted in 12 deaths, and he's been doing what he can to help since the disaster. He lives in the Dallas suburb of Heath and watched the storms.

"I was in my neighborhood on the highest point and we watched it hit [and] touch down in Sunnyvale and we watched it go from Sunnyvale to across Lake Ray Hubbard, kicking off transformer boxes and turning the whole sky green and all kinds of crazy colors," said Ruggiano, who signed a one-year deal with the Rangers last month. "We watched it go from Sunnyvale through Garland, Rowlett and up northwest and fade out from there. You couldn't get a good look at it until a transformer was kicked, but it seemed like I saw 20 transformers kicked up. It was a very scary scene."

It also prompted Ruggiano, 31, into action. The facility he works out at is in Rowlett, which was one of the hardest-hit areas. He said when he drives around the community there are constant reminders of the destruction.

"You always wonder where you can give back in the community, and there can't be a better time than now to get involved," he said. "The first day after [the tornadoes hit], we went and cleared windows for a neighborhood church, patched up a roof, cleaned up glass, which was everywhere. The first couple of days were a little bit scary because you didn't know when they were going to turn on the electrical power lines. When that happens you just don't know what's going to happen. We were in and out of there real quick, and I think we were advised to do so."

While it's been two weeks since the tornadoes touched down, Ruggiano has been helping as much as he can while he prepares to return to the field, as the Rangers are just more than a month away from the start of Spring Training. His church is organizing groups to help where they can, and Ruggiano took to Twitter to try to recruit more help.

"Lake Pointe Church is kind of organizing groups to go over to Rowlett, bringing work gloves, trash bags and doing cleanup," he said. "You can imagine how much destruction there is and how much trash there is to clean up. I'll be involved in that probably next week, working out there in the morning and heading over there in the afternoons."

Anthony Andro is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.