Rangers give back to community for Thanksgiving

Former players, staff hand out care packages in advance of holiday season

Rangers give back to community for Thanksgiving

DALLAS -- King Bridge Crossing is a small, gated community tucked into West Dallas, across Fish Trap Lake from Pinkston High School and the Rangers Urban Youth Academy.

The houses are made of brick and wood, painted immaculately in light brown with manicured lawns and trimmed bushes, with backyards decorated in satellite dishes and barbecue grills. Nearby communities Villa Creek and Hampton at Lakewest have the same special character.

They are run by the Dallas Housing Authority and the Mercy Street Sports Complex, part of a community the Rangers targeted with their MLB Youth Academy. But the Rangers are doing more in the neighborhood than just rolling out baseballs.

Their Thanksgiving community initiative included Texas Rangers Foundation vice president Karin Morris and assistant director Lauren Parker, as well as members of their alumni stopping by recently to pass out Thanksgiving packages, $100 gift certificates to major retail stores and brand new blankets for the upcoming holiday season.

"It's awesome to give back to the community," former infielder Curtis Wilkerson said. "That's what it's all about. I feel honored to be a part of it."

Rangers alumni stopped by recently to pass out Thanksgiving packages.

The Rangers were also giving away free pizzas, leaving Jordan Daniels and other residents to choose between cheese and pepperoni. They didn't have to worry about anchovies when handed a pizza from former coach Larry Hardy or former shortstop Benji Gil.

"The Rangers have been a great partner in what we are putting together out here," said David Zappasodi, senior vice president of the Dallas Housing Authority. "This is a very meaningful gesture for people with limited financial resources to make sure their Thanksgiving is special."

Former Rangers reliever Chris Michalak is now a pitching coach in the Nationals organization, but he still lives in nearby Keller and was among those helping out.

"It's awesome…not only this time of the year but all year round," Michalak said.

The Rangers are here all year. This area of West Dallas is a vibrant, well-kept community despite the limited financial resources and the residents are active in keeping it that way.

"They are engaged in the community," Zappasodi said. "Some of the things we do, besides providing safe decent housing, is we have a staff of social workers who are getting kids involved in after-school programs, educational programs, extracurricular sports. We help adults find employment or improve their employment.

"Our mission -- besides offering safe decent affording housing -- is offering a life-changing opportunity. What the Rangers are doing will really fit hand in glove, helping people in the community improving their quality of life."

Zappasodi said there is a misconception about the housing authority's developments and the residents who live inside the properties.

"These are nice properties and these are good people looking for a safe place and a rent they can afford," Zappasodi said. "That's what we provide. We may not see substantial change in the immediate generation but the data shows the things we do today has a big impact on the children growing up in these communities.

"It's not a handout. It's a helping hand up."

The Rangers Youth Academy in West Dallas goes well beyond baseball.

"It's important to be a part of the community," said Homer Bush, the Rangers' director of youth programs. "The only way we can make it successful is to have an impact in the lives of young kids. This is a great place."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. 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.