Negron: Hank, A Regular Guy

Frank Tack baseball field, Clearwater, Florida.

It was a warm and somewhat foggy night. Two teams are battling it out. Mostly teenagers and guys in their twenties. The only exception is 57-year old Aris Sakellaridis, the oldest guy in the league.

It had been a pretty uneventful game until the 6th inning when all of a sudden a tall figure was walking in from the right field parking lot. It seemed as if everyone stopped what they were doing to see who the figure was. It looked like an old classic picture of the great actor James Dean.

Well it wasn’t James Dean, it was Yankee co-Chairman Hank Steinbrenner who decided to come to the game to see his friend Aris play. The young players, and for that matter all the players, were blown away that Hank would come down to the field to watch everyday people play.

Aris would respond to that statement by saying that Hank is a regular person who appreciates the good in all. After Aris grounded out, Hank grabbed a bat and gave him some proper batting tips. In some of their conversation Hank even told him about proper pitching mechanics, just in case Aris would be brought in to pitch. Joking around, Hank said I’m taking over and the first thing I’m gonna do is change the name of this team from the Pandas to a more masculine name like “Bullfrogs.”

Michael Kelly is the Pandas’ designated hitter. As it turned out he had been a spring training intern for the Yankees. Now he works for the Yanks class A affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons. Kelly is the public address announcer during the Tarpons’ games.

In between at bats he got to spend time with Hank getting advice on steps he should take in order to advance in the world of sports management. Hank could not have been nicer in his advice to this aspiring young man. He was like a professor talking to his pupil.

One by one some of the other players and some parents would come over to shake Hank’s hand. As you stand next to this man and listen to him talk about different subjects you realize how much he really has to give to the world.

This morning I was watching the animated film “Henry & Me.” I had forgotten that Hank did the voice of his father, George Steinbrenner. He may have been the best actor in that film. I must add that the other actors were named Richard Gere, Luis Guzman, and two Oscar Nominated actors named Danny Aiello and Chazz Palminteri.

I guess he is just like James Dean.

Negron: “Love At First Bite”

George Hamilton and Ray Negrons

Last week I had the pleasure of having my off Broadway play, “Batboy, A Yankee Miracle,” performed by my cast in Hernando County, Florida, for the U.S. Veterans and First Responders. I also got to do two, one-man shows with the original music of the incredible Alex Martin for the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida where 100% of the proceeds went to the area charities.

After the shows at the Academy, I had a reunion of sorts with the legendary actor George Hamilton. It was “Love at first bite!” (Title of the 1979 Horror Comedy movie that starred George Hamilton as Dracula)  Actually it had been probably 40 years since the last time that we had seen each other.

The first thing out of Mr. Hamilton’s mouth was “I remember your hair well, what happened to it.” He was referring to the fact that I had a rather large Afro hairstyle in the decade of the 70s. Now I keep it short and straight. I told Mr. Hamilton that it’s called old age. He looked at me and laughed.

We got a chance to talk about how much he liked George Steinbrenner and the great relationship that the Boss had with his dear friend Cary Grant. Mr. Hamilton told me how terrific the Admiral Academy had been for his son George Jr.

My pal Aris, who is in the Batboy play, was thrilled to meet the distinguished Mr. Hamilton and actually brought him a gift. Aris asked him if he had seen the new Yankee Stadium yet and Mr. Hamilton said he had not. So Aris said ‘I have a special gift for you.’ Aris handed him a small box and inside was a replica plaque of the great George Steinbrenner. “Wow,” Mr Hamilton responded. He said that he would ‘always cherish this gift because he thought that George Steinbrenner was just a really good man.’

George HamiltonMr. Hamilton said he would always have fond memories of his great Hollywood friends and him visiting with the Boss during those Championship games in the 70s at the old Yankee Stadium.