Ruggiano helps community after tornadoes hit

Ruggiano helps community after tornadoes hit

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers outfielder Justin Ruggiano had never seen a tornado before. That changed on the night of Dec. 26, when the most destructive of a series of tornadoes came within a few miles of his home on the east side of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

"I was watching on a hill," Ruggiano said. "The tornado touched down in Sunnyvale and I watched it for about 12 miles. I watched it go across I-30. You could see it when there was lightning and then it would disappear. Then it got across [Lake Ray Hubbard] and it would hit those transformers. It turned the sky green and purple and you could see what was going."

Ruggiano was especially concerned because his three-year-old daughter, Ava, was spending the night with her grandparents at their house on Ray Hubbard.

"I was thinking of hopping in my truck and going to get her," Ruggiano said. "But that wouldn't have been the smart thing to do. There were more tornadoes coming up behind it that I was concerned about."

Ruggiano's family and property made it through the deadly storms. Others weren't so fortunate. The storms left 13 dead and caused millions of dollars in damage as 25 Texas counties were declared a disaster area.

Ruggiano and his wife, Shelly, live in Heath, Texas, a small town in Rockwall County just to the east of Dallas. It is close to Garland and Rowlett, the two towns that seemed to get the worst of it.

Ruggiano has tried to stay active through Lake Point Church in the relief efforts as all the towns in the area try to recover and rebuild.

"It was sad, but they've rebuilt quickly and things have gone well," Ruggiano said. "But there are still people out of their homes. It's tough. It's hard, but they are resilient. It's good to see people come together like this."

Ruggiano already had enough on his mind. He was a free agent this offseason and he had just signed with the Rangers nine days before the storms hit.

"I really stayed connected through my church," Ruggiano said. "The day after the tornadoes, we did some patch-up work and then the church kept us updated. If somebody had a need, they would tell you where to go. On Saturday morning, people would get together and go help out. Sometimes it would be a large group, or just me and a few others.

"I continue to get updates and text messages. I can't be back there, but I can continue to spread the word through social media."

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