Venezuela doesn’t recognize Thanksgiving as a holiday, so the fourth Thursday of every November has been just another day for most of Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos’ life.
But he has moved to the United States full time, and has played professional baseball long enough to grasp the meaning of the holiday to Americans and to let the spirit of the season course through his already big heart.
So, Chirinos helped serve a Tex-Mex meal and distribute scarves, hats and gloves Monday night at the Arlington Life Shelter, where he was known as a baseball player but talked about the compassion he has for humanity.
He talked about baseball, too. He’s the leading candidate to be the Rangers’ regular catcher in 2015, and thankful for everything that happened during a breakthrough 2014 season.
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Baseball, though, has given him the opportunity to launch the Robinson Chirinos Foundation and to give to those less fortunate than he is. And he seems as thankful for that as he is his blossoming career.
“God has been good to me in so many ways,” Chirinos said. “Giving back to the people who are struggling and having a hard time, that’s why I’m here tonight.
“A lot of people are sick with cancer or dealing with a lot of stuff. Just to be alive and wake up and see my family is big. Everything that’s happened to my career this year and to follow that dream and play in the big leagues every day has been big for me and my family.”
Chirinos was honored Monday with the inaugural Richard Durrett Hardest-Working Man Award, to be given annually by the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America to the Rangers player who showed the most improvement through hard work.
Chirinos was a near-unanimous choice by voters who watched him go from roster long shot to a player to the catcher who, barring a key off-season acquisition, will log the majority of the playing time in 2015.
He did so with hard work and dedication to his position, which stretched into winter ball before the season and took off in spring training. Durrett, a beloved media colleague who died suddenly in June, was known for his strong work ethic and dedication to sports journalism with a focus on the Rangers.
“I know he was a hard worker for his family, for the community,” Chirinos said. “To be the first guy to be nominated to receive the award, I just want to stare [up] at him because I know he’s in heaven with God. I’m going to do the best I can to work hard for the community and the Texas Rangers organization.”
An event like the one Chirinos’ foundation organized Monday is the first in the U.S., but Chirinos has been giving since 2012 in Venezuela. He said that the foundation paid for an expensive life-saving surgery for a countryman last year, and the foundation will give baseball equipment to 35 teams in Venezuela this winter.
Chirinos hasn’t landed a big contract yet, but he felt the need to do it after hearing a sermon a few years ago in church.
“We’re just trying to help the most people we can,” he said. “God has been good to me and has helped provide what we need to help more people. Hopefully in the future we can get more money and help more people than what we’re doing right now.”
He is also preparing for a heavier catching load in 2015. Chirinos said that he wants to be ready to catch 150 games, though the Rangers will likely add a catcher who will keep Chirinos’ time behind the plate to around 100 games.
He has been working out regularly at Globe Life Park, lifting weights and doing conditioning work. He hopes to add five pounds this off-season to brace against the common weight loss during spring training, and enter the season around 215 pounds.
Baseball, though, wasn’t foremost on his mind Monday night. He was thankful for the opportunity to help his new community.
“There’s a lot of people that really need our help,” Chirinos said. “I just feel like I’m part of this community.”