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Rangers still helping West after explosion

Jan. 14, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 13, 2014 at 7:14 p.m.

Texas Ranger first baseman Mitch Moreland sits with visiting students during the baseball team's caravan stop at the West Community Center in West on Tuesday. West was devastated by a deadly fertilizer plant explosion last year. The team has donated $50,000 to help renovate a park across from the plant site with a new playground and a memorial to the 15 people killed in the explosion.

WEST (AP) - Scott Podsednik played high school baseball on a since-abandoned field in the shadow of a fertilizer plant that exploded last April in the former major league outfielder's small Central Texas hometown.

A "Keep Out" sign is posted on the fence below the ripped-up scoreboard. Light poles are down on the field. Across a railroad track, there's the cleared plant site.

There are plans for the future, too. Next to the diamond, a park will be renovated with a new playground and a memorial for the 15 people who died in the explosion.

The Texas Rangers, who have made a $50,000 donation for West City Park, made a caravan stop Tuesday in the town of about 2,800 people less than 90 miles from their home ballpark.

"The Rangers organization has stepped up in more ways than one," said Podsednik, who was drafted by the Rangers before playing for seven other teams over parts of 11 major league seasons. "They've been incredible - very generous, very classy. West is a sports town, and there are plenty of Rangers fans here. I'm sure that they've made a lot more fans with these acts."

After the explosion last year, the team collected tens of thousands of essential items for West victims and residents, along with gift cards and $40,000 in cash donations at Rangers Ballpark. Players donated cash and equipment, and Major League Baseball also gave $100,000 to relief efforts. More than 1,000 individuals from the town later attended a city of West night at a Rangers game last July.

"It's amazing. ... If there's something that can come of this good, it's the show of humanity that's been shown to citizens of West," Mayor Tommy Muska said.

A fire truck was parked outside the West Community Center, where players Mitch Moreland and Tanner Scheppers joined other members of the Rangers organization and were met by about 100 school children. That truck, with No. 27 on it, was donated last year to West's volunteer fire department by Lance Berkman when he was playing for Texas.

"You live that worst day of your life, and then you have to look at the positives, and the Rangers have been a huge positive," said Jennifer Schaffer, the city secretary.

That community center is about 2 miles down Reagan Street from the park site, where traffic cones and broken glass sit on the tennis and basketball courts that will be redone. The mayor said about 50 new houses are under construction near that park.



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