Rangers inspired by Louisiana homeless softball team
Sports has brought families, cities, and even the entire country together during tough times.
For a small community of residents in Shreveport, La., it was softball that lifted their spirits.
But this isn’t your average group of neighbors getting together to play ball. For years, Jonathan Barriere and his teammates called several tents set up in the woods on the outskirts of town their home.
"Being homeless, you feel like you’re nobody," he told FOX Sports Southwest. "We really just want to help ourselves. We really just want jobs."
Finding work hasn’t been easy. Barriere has battled drug and gambling addictions throughout his life, but Hub Urban Ministries gave him and many others a chance for a fresh start.
"I came here and all of a sudden everything changed," Barriere said.
The change was sparked by a simple game on the diamond.
For the first time in a long time, Barriere was smiling, high-fiving and hugging the people around him.
"It was different and everything changed because it was like having a family," he said. "I got responsibilities now. They’re counting on me. It was my team and they depended on me. I felt like somebody again."
But it’s not just on the field where he has responsibilities again. Barriere, along with nine others who were homeless and unemployed at the start of the season, now have a decent place to live and jobs thanks to Hub Urban Ministries.
"When the softball team idea came up with one of our staffers, it was really was kind of an accidental thing that happened," Hub director Cassie Hammett said. "We had no idea the impact it would have on the players. Not just the players, but our community."
After finishing the season 7-6, the Texas Rangers wanted to congratulate the team and extended them an invitation to Arlington.
"Our team feels important that people from all the way in Dallas that play for this amazing team would want anything to do with our little softball team in Shreveport," Hammett said.
Rangers assistant vice president of community outreach Breon Dennis is a Shreveport native and was inspired when he read about the Hub team’s story in the Shreveport Times.
"When you grow up in a neighborhood like that, you’re used to being told no kid in this area will be doing what you’re doing," he said. "Statistically, I shouldn’t be here. But to be here and to be able to give back to others, it makes you realize more and more that somebody took a chance on me. So why not take a chance on someone else?"
Barriere and his teammates were in awe when they arrived at Globe Life Park, and it even brought a tear to some of their eyes.
"It’s like a dream come true," he said. "I love sports, and I’ve always wanted to go to a real baseball game. It was surreal because I kept saying that ‘I’m not here, this is not real.’"
They got more than just a game experience. A few Rangers players wanted to meet them in-person and commend them on all their success.
"I’m almost more starstruck by them," Texas pitcher Nick Tepesch said. "They’ve been through so much and were able to turn it around."
With a new home and job, Barriere has a new outlook on life and is ready to take advantage of the opportunities ahead.
"As long as I continue to do what I’m supposed to do as far as keeping my priorities straight, I have no intentions of going back to being homeless."