12/23/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
Holland takes up mantle of giving spirit in Texas
Pitcher follows footsteps of previous Rangers in reaching out to community
By Todd Wills / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Derek Holland has watched as the old guard has moved on, faces of the Rangers' franchise such as Michael Young and Ian Kinsler.
Holland hasn't forgotten one important thing they taught him -- stay involved in the offseason.
Holland has been front and center this week as Texas has held a toy drive at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and visited sick patients at Children's Medical Center of Dallas. Along with fellow pitchers Matt Harrison and Tanner Scheppers, Holland has been everywhere.
That can't be underestimated when it comes to a sports franchise being involved in the community. Often the players that live locally are called upon. With the Rangers transitioning since their World Series seasons of 2010 and '11, local stars like Young, Kinsler, Josh Hamilton and David Murphy are no longer with the club. That's where someone like Holland, who is 27, can make a difference.
Holland is a natural because of his outgoing personality and his undeniable sense of humor. His impersonations -- he tried Kermit the Frog this week -- are well known among Rangers fans. Holland enjoys interacting with fans on Twitter and when the hockey-crazy Ohio native is at Dallas Stars games.
Holland has been just as important to the Rangers' organization in these club functions during the offseason as he was this past season, when he went 10-9 with a 3.42 ERA.
"That's one of the things that I learned is what veteran guys did [in the offseason] when I first got here," Holland said. "I had great role models. I had great people to follow with Michael Young and Ian Kinsler. Those were two guys that stood out to me with everything they've done, and other veterans do their charity work as well.
"To see how important it is to give back to these kids. Why not be a great role model for the kids? Help them and show them the way, so when they get to be in my spot, they can do the same thing as well."
Holland brought smiles to many faces Wednesday morning at Children's Medical Center at a party for about 20 young patients. Kids and their parents gravitated toward him. The pitcher signed autographs and took group pictures.
"He's perfect for this," said Scheppers, who along with his wife Jessica were at Children's Medical Center on Wednesday.
"For me personally, they brighten my day by seeing them, because they keep me smiling," Holland said. "I hear what they say and they are fans of us and they respect up and look up to us. And then they're in a tough spot, where as I've been blessed with this gift and it makes me feel that much better about myself, being able to realize that I'm helping little kids and touching people's lives and helping them when it matters most. I'm happy being that guy that can come in and put that smile on people's faces."
Holland has been making these visits to children's hospitals since 2009. The toughest moments are the few minutes spent in an individual room with transplant and heart patients.
"It's always touching," Holland said "It can be emotional at times. They're not feeling well and they can't really. It's really a sad moment, but it's one of those things that you have to hold it in and be strong and cheer them up.
"We saw a kid that was getting a kidney transplant, and the mom is the one who gave her the kidney. To hear that is amazing."
Holland broke out one of his impersonations during a radio segment this week while talking to children in the hospital. He had been practicing Kermit the Frog from "The Muppets," and when Holland learned that the kids watched a puppet show before his arrival, he went with his new voice.
It went OK, he said.
"It was pretty funny, because the kid that was in the room, he didn't know who Kermit was," Holland said. "But the thing was that it got his attention and he was smiling and he started laughing."
Holland said he picked up his giving spirit from his parents, Rick and Wendy. They made him who he is, the pitcher said.
"I've always been that care-giving person," Holland said. "I never realized it until my mom said it to one of my friends, but I'm one of those people that likes to put people ahead of myself."
Holland said being there for the young fans -- whether it's at the hospital or a toy drive -- is an important part of his job.
Expect him to continue to be face of the Rangers' offseason.
"We try to do as much as we can," Holland said. "We can only get to do so much. When we do get those moments, we take advantage of it. We're going to do whatever it takes. When we get called upon, we're going to be there. We're going to do it all to brighten everyone's days. Have fun and make their day enjoyable and tell them that everything is going to be fine and they're going to be joining us soon at the ballpark."
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.