Toy drive allows Rangers to interact with community

Toy drive allows Rangers to interact with community

ARLINGTON -- As Santa Claus sat nearby, and Nolan Ryan's statue doffed his cap to those watching "Elf" and "A Christmas Story" on the screens in Vandergriff Plaza, members of the Texas Rangers and their fans joined forces to spread some Christmas cheer to families in need in Tarrant County.

It was the conclusion of the sixth annual Cowboy Santas Toy Drive, which raised 11,034 toys for Tarrant County families in need. The drive began on Dec. 1, and concluded Tuesday evening at Globe Life Park with a three-hour event, allowing fans to drop off their final donations, tour the ballpark and meet Rangers players, coaches, and broadcasters, many of whom were also in attendance for the team's visit to the Children's Medical Center of Dallas earlier in the day.

"Whether you're a player, or whether you work for the team, you appreciate what the fans have meant to the franchise over the years," said TV broadcaster, former general manager, and former player Tom Grieve. "Whenever you have a chance to give back to the fans, especially during the holidays when there are a lot of folks who aren't quite as fortunate, you recognize that as an organization, it's a fairly easy thing to do this to try to give back in some small way."

Many of the players who signed autographs for fans said similar things. Starter A.J. Griffin was in attendance, and seemed genuinely energized by the whole affair.

"To do something like this with the toy drive and and be able to help some more unfortunate families have a nice happy holiday ... that's what it's all about," Griffin said. "We've got a good community here in Texas."

Reliever Keone Kela added: "To have the ability to give back is the biggest thing. We had so many people that were stepping stones in our development and allow our careers to prosper, so to be able to see all these kids and just give them a little light, and an opportunity to enter their mind that they can do it too, it's probably the greatest Christmas gift you can get."

Several Rangers players expressed similar sentiments, as they joined together to give back to their fans.

"It's great to be a part of this community here in Texas," reliever Matt Bush said. "It's great to see people out here enjoying themselves and having a good time."

Added Griffin. "When I was younger, I was a huge Padres fan, and I got to go to a few signings when I was about 12 years old; it was such a blast. You're almost starstruck seeing your favorite players, so to be able to give back and offer the same experience I had when I was younger, it's truly amazing."

Ryan Rua had a similar story. He grew up in Cleveland during the 1990s, when the Indians were a perpetual powerhouse.

"My Dad was always a sports fan, and kinda instilled it in me and my brother to be out at the games and local stuff like this, to snatch up some autographs if we could," Rua said, "so to be on the other side, it's a pretty cool thing for me, too."

Also present to sign autographs Thursday night were manager Jeff Banister and players Josh Bonifay, Andrew FaulknerJoey Gallo, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nomar Mazara, Yohander Mendez, Tyler Wagner, Elvis Andrus, and Tanner Scheppers, among other coaches, local media and former Rangers players.

Levi Weaver is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.