Texas Rangers

New Rangers outfielder ‘touched’ by recent tornadoes

Members of the Red Oak Baseball and Softball Association are presented with a $5,000 grant from the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, represented Saturday by Rangers radio voice Eric Nadel (second from left) and lefty Sam Freeman and outfielder Justin Ruggiano, both at far right.
Members of the Red Oak Baseball and Softball Association are presented with a $5,000 grant from the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, represented Saturday by Rangers radio voice Eric Nadel (second from left) and lefty Sam Freeman and outfielder Justin Ruggiano, both at far right. Star-Telegram

The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation had already decided to give a $5,000 grant to the Red Oak Baseball and Softball Association before the Dec. 26 tornadoes affected so many communities south and east of Dallas.

But on Saturday, in a Red Oak school that had been reopened to accommodate elementary students who had their school destroyed in the storms, the presentation of the grant was a reminder of the toll taken last month.

Justin Ruggiano, who along with left-hander Sam Freeman and radio man Eric Nadel presented the check, has been reminded of the storms almost daily.

It’s absolutely a horrific event and the first time I’d seen something like that in person. I was watching it with my own eyes.

Justin Ruggiano, who watched the Dec. 26 tornadoes from near his home in Heath

The outfielder, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent before Christmas, has been volunteering in Garland and Rowlett after he watched the EF4 tornado from the highest point in his neighborhood in nearby Heath.

Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, which Ruggiano attends, has been organizing outings after members of the congregation were affected by the storms. While Ruggiano’s house and family were unaffected by the weather, he has been affected emotionally and spiritually.

“We watched it go from Sunnyvale, through Garland, Rowlett and the northwest Rockwall area,” said Ruggiano, who has lived in the Rockwall area since 2009. “Very scary scene. You just never expect one in December. I watched the whole thing, and I watched the destruction it took with it and now the death toll is 12, unfortunately.”

12 Deaths stemming from the tornadoes that hit North Texas on Dec. 26. Nine were in Garland, where Rangers outfielder and Heath resident Justin Ruggiano has been volunteering.

Ruggiano, a native Texan, jumped into action the day after the storms hit, boarding up windows and roofs. All the while he and the group he was working with were uncertain of when electricity might be restored — racing against the remaining daylight.

Two weeks out, Ruggiano continues to volunteer while juggling preparations for the upcoming season, his first with the Rangers. But it’s a juggling act he’s more than willing to make.

“We have friends and church members who live and come to Rockwall out of Rowlett,” Ruggiano said. “I drive by it every day. It definitely touched me.

“You’re always wondering where you can give back to the community, and I can’t think of a better time than now to get involved in my own community.”

Jurickson Profar hasn’t played a major league game since Sept. 27, 2013, after dealing with a shoulder injury, but he is expected to be at full strength to start this season.

Profar update

Infielder Jurickson Profar, who has missed the past two seasons with a shoulder injury, will return from Curacao in time for start of the Rangers’ annual winter minicamp Jan. 18.

Profar had surgery last spring and has been continuing a throwing program. He also will serve as an ambassador for a Netherlands team that is scheduled to play an exhibition game Monday in Cuba.

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