On Jackie Robinson Day, Taylor Hearn hopes Texas Rangers help him grow the game

Jeff Wilson
·4 min read

Taylor Hearn feels it every day, whether he’s walking into the Texas Rangers’ clubhouse or shagging in the outfield during batting practice.

No else on the current roster is Black.

“I don’t really try to get to wrapped up in it and just keep doing my thing because I know I stick out like a sore thumb,” Hearn said. “It’s hard to miss a 6-foot-6 black guy.”

He shouldn’t be the only Black player for long. Willie Calhoun is expected to join the roster soon after opening the season on the injured list, and Khris Davis is probably a month out. Outfielders Delino DeShields and Jason Martin continue to be options at the alternate camp.

No team in baseball had as many Black players on its spring roster than the Rangers’ 10, according to the MLB Racial and Gender Score Card released Thursday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports.

There were also 65 non-Black players on the Rangers’ spring roster, but with Black players making up 13.3% of the roster, the Rangers were nearly twice above the percentage of Black players on MLB rosters.

And that’s an ongoing problem baseball was still trying to solve Thursday as another Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated. Among the many issues with the game, having only 7.7% of its players being Black is near the top of the list.

Hearn and the Players Alliance, which was formed last year by a group of Black MLB players, are attempting to grow the game in Black communities, but it’s not an easy task.

It’s not just a money thing, though Hearn and many Rangers players donated their Thursday salary to the Players Alliance. The lack of diversity in the game isn’t just a problem for Black players.

It’s a problem for every player.

“I think it’s just continuing to show our support and show our faces,” Hearn said. “I think that goes for Black and white players. I’ve made it a point to the guys here, whenever I’m hosting camps or doing stuff in the community, I want them all to come if they can.

“That would be huge for a young Black kid to sit there and see a Joey Gallo or a David Dahl right next to me. It would show that they care.”

The Players Alliance circulated a video to every team about its mission and about Robinson, who became the first Black player in MLB history on April 15, 1947. Hearn played it Wednesday and spoke to his teammates about how they can help.

He also shared his experiences as a Black man and as a Black player in baseball. For instance, he said he was the only Black pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 2018.

Hearn grew up in Royse City, and said he remembers the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks hosting community events with an emphasis on reaching Black communities. Now he wants to follow their example as a member of the Rangers.

He and DeShields braved snow and cold temperatures to take part in an offseason Players Alliance event in Oak Cliff, where COVID-19 supplies and baseball equipment were doled out. Other Black MLB players, like Washington Nationals first baseman Josh Bell, participated.

So did Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, and the more white players who join the cause, the better.

“At the end of the day it’s just us trying to be good people, trying to help other people out, and that’s all we can do,” said Rangers infielder Charlie Culberson, who is white. “It’s just trying to grow the game the right way, reaching as many kids as we can, and making sure they have fun along the way, too.”

All players in baseball Thursday wore No. 42, Robinson’s retired number. Hearn participated in his first Jackie Robinson Day last season, though it was pushed back to Aug. 28 because of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Hearn gave his jersey from that game to his mother and has another lined up for his father.

Next to his birthday, Hearn said, no other day is as special to him as Jackie Robinson Day.

“I know that, Lord willing, I’ll definitely have a lot more,” he said. “The first one is always memorable. You get emotional because you see guys all the time in the major leagues wearing it, and you always think as a kid, ‘Man, I can’t wait to wear that 42.’”