GARLAND, Texas -- The combination of the Rangers and a sports equipment drive for victims of December's tornadoes led to a big Sunday on the Rangers Winter Caravan.
One fan showed up for the autograph session that featured Elvis Andrus, Delino DeShields, Chris Gimenez and Ryan Rua on Saturday night. He was told to go home, but there were others who showed up early too. The first person in line was outside Academy Sports at 3 a.m. CT Sunday, and autograph tickets for the event were all gone two hours before the players showed up.
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That said a lot about the Rangers and the spirit of giving to help victims of the tornadoes, which cut through the Garland area and other parts of the Metroplex on Dec. 26.
• Rangers Winter Caravan
"The importance of us being able to gather as much equipment and usable stuff for all these people that lost everything I think is imperative," said Gimenez. "Most of us are very fortunate because we haven't had to go through anything like that, where one day you have all your stuff and the next day you don't. If we can give back anything to kind of help ease that pain, it's the best way to go about it."
Fans weren't required to donate to get an autograph, but they contributed everything from a baseball equipment bag to a soccer ball. Academy also donated a $5,000 gift card to the drive. Everything collected Sunday will be given to the Garland Independent School District, which will head up the distribution of equipment to those impacted by the tornadoes.
• Rangers in the community
Sunday wasn't the first time the Rangers have helped since the tornadoes hit. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano has been a fixture helping out in Rockwall, which is close to where he lives. The club also donated $5,000 to sports programs in Red Oak, which was also hit by one of the tornadoes.
• Ruggiano, Rangers help out Texas tornado victims
Most of the players feel a need to help, as they were in town when the tragedy happened.
"It means a lot," Andrus said. "It was a sad moment for Texas. Doing this today to help them is amazing and a blessing. We were in Dallas when it happened, and nothing too crazy [happened there], but you could feel the weather getting rough. I didn't know about it until the next day when I woke up and saw social media everywhere. I really hate when something like that happens, especially here in Texas."
Anthony Andro is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.