Negron’s Impact: The Horror of War. Thank God for Baseball

I was sitting with my friend, my hero Ken Fagen. Our conversation went from Baseball, Tim Raines and the Hall of fame also the fact that if Ivan Rodriguez got into the hall of fame then Thurman Munson also belonged in the hall. The conversation seemed to drift from the love of the game.

And how his love of the Yankees kept him from realizing that someday he would be away from the deadly war that he had been involved in called Vietnam, to be able to be back home and go to Yankee Stadium again and see number seven Mickey Mantle hit home runs. However my curiosity took the conversation back to Vietnam and the subject of how he carefully respected the handling of the remains of our fallen heroes.

What Ken told me was scary,courageous, and as Ken was talking I was saying to myself that things like this can only happen in movies.

These are Ken’s own words in the following paragraphs:

During my Vietnam days, I had the privilege as a Loadmaster with the United States Air Force, I participated in the return of many of the fallen. I had to tell him that today we escort the fallen home with flag over the metal coffin, and we provide all the dignity possible. It was not always like that. In the middle 1960s with the Vietnam war having its darkest moments it was a different time in a different place. In the beginning, it was not unusual to return to or three metal caskets don the same flight with the mission terminating a Dover AFB, Delaware. As the War progressed with the War escalating our missions increased, and we were bringing more materials into the War Zone. Our losses were also increasing. It was not unusual to depart Than Son Nhut, Vietnam, with eighty or more fallen comrades. There was no one there to escort, we handled the metal caskets stacked on pallets like cord wood. We loaded the pallets with ten or twelve caskets each. There were no flags, no ceremony, it was just a job, and it had to be done. There was a separate receipt for each of the remains. The Load master had to sign each. On the receipt were the Name, Rank, serial number, and cause of death. Most were the traumatic cause. And indicating whether the body was intact, or citing the dismemberment. This was the byproduct of a dirty war. No war is clean. After takeoff, the only good thoughts were that we were returning the fallen to their families so they could mourn in peace. Upon arrival a Dover AFB, again no demonstration of honor, the pallets were removed to the mortuary. Another mission completed.

There were brighter moments under less than desirable circumstances. The Medical Air Evacuation Flights. Usually these missions were transporting mostly litter patients severely wounded. The Aircraft (C-135) was the state of the art of the time. The Doctors and Nurses were some the hardest working people I have ever been around. The most difficult thing for all, was to hold your emotions in tack. One instance was a departure from Clark AB, Philippines, about 45 litters en route to Kelly AFB, where there was a Burn Center near there. The Air Craft Commander reported 60 souls on board for departure. Before we arrived at Kelly he had to report we were landing with 58 souls on board. Two had expired in route. Some called these missions Angel Flights, and for most of us crew members it was just another day at the office. We all are proud to have served, and proud to have been part of the three percent. At age eighty I still remember, and still shed tears.

This part of my many duties performed during my seven years flying missions in Vietnam. I am grateful today our Nation has a different outlook. Our fallen are returned home with Honor and Dignity. Our military are respected. Men and Women of our armed forces have no politics, they just serve. I have no regrets for my twenty years of Service to this great country.

Ken is truly one of the greatest persons that I have ever known. He has thought me to really appreciate a lot of the little things of life. The last fifteen years he has had a part time job with the Yankees in Tampa and he treats it like he is the president of AT&T. He got to know George Steinbrenner and I can honestly say that that may of been the greatest moment of his life, and your talking about a man (Ken) that has been awarded medals from generals.

When I ask Ken about that he says, when you get to know the Steinbrenner family the respect they give you is staggering. Their love of this country and the people that have served the armed forces have made me feel that my time serving my country did not go in vain.

I will always be so great full to them.

Negron’s Impact: Raymond Defelitta and a Film Called STANO

Motion pictures and the baseball business seem to go hand in hand. They both deal with team concepts. They are both very scripted. Very choreographed. In baseball you have batting practice. In films you have rehearsal. They both have lots of organizational meetings. They both deal with lots of money. Every team and every film has its one or two big stars.

The biggest thing that these two entertainment businesses have in common is that they cannot run without the big chief.

In baseball, we call him the manager. In movie land, we call him the director. Just like baseballs manager it’s the directors dream of the project that essentially takes us to the promise land. It’s the director that has to wear so many different hats on the set.

He has to be a good guy when he doesn’t want to be, some times he has to be the bad guy. There are many people working on the set also with great creative minds. However it is his mind that has the final say. Baseball is exactly the same way. The New York Yankees once had a great manager by the name of Billy Martin, whom I admired very much. I loved how he used his coaches so beautifully. Every one knew their roles, which in turn allowed him to deal with the task at hand. Making the team win. A movie is being shot in the Bronx called “STANO.” It’s a fictional story about a young man with a dream. It’s the story of most of our lives. It’s a story that can only be directed by a man with a very strong soul. That man is Raymond Defelitta.

Raymond is a strong director with many film credits including the very wonderful film “City Island,” which stared Academy award nominated actor Andy Garcia, a film that was also shot in the Bronx. When I was told by Bill Chartoff that Raymond was hired to direct “STANO” I was very happy, because I happen to know Andy Garcia for over 30 years. Andy did two films for Raymond,and if you know any thing at all about film making than you know that those were Garcia’s best performances. Understand, this is just my opinion. My reason is because Andy was so sincere in his delivery as an actor. Only a director can truly get certain things out of an actor in certain ways.

It’s the same thing in baseball.

Isn’t it crazy that even though Reggie Jackson hated Billy Martin so much, he still had his greatest moment (three homers in one World Series game) under Billy. Coincidence? Maybe. However that’s what the great directors do.
I’m very excited to watch Raymond lead Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara and the entire cast and crew of “STANO.” After reading the last draft of this film which is written so brilliantly by Robert Bruzio, I know that we are in for some magical moments in a film about the type of life that many others and me have at one time lived in the Bronx and many parts of New York.

The only other director that I have personally worked with that could possibly do this film is Francis Ford Coppola with whom I spent , months working with in a film called “The Cotton Club.” I say this in a very complimentary way because of my admiration for Francis and the respect that I have developed for Raymond in a very short time.
Again Kudos for the Chartoff Group for bringing the right director for the right film for the city that has the greatest stories to tell.

Billy Martin would have loved “STANO” but then again, the Boss would have as well.

Negron’s Impact: Anthony Scaramucci is Looking Out

Anthony Scaramucci now walks with President Trump and we are better off for it. Whenever I reached out to Anthony he was always there for me. He helped to make my radio show on Espn Deportes a better and more interesting show.

I loved reading the story on CNBC about Anthony Scaramucci. I was even more excited to see the quotes from my longtime friend and mentor, Alfred Zaccagnino. Alfred said “One of the most likeable traits of Anthony Scaramucci is that he willingly gives his time, attention and courtesy to a wealth of his relations, whether personal or business, and whether they’re highest level parties, or mediocre.”

I’ve personally seen this proven at Skybridge’s SALT conference year after year. As the White House Communications Director he will be able to really help the President keep a handle on things and give the office of the President the prestige that it’s really supposed to have.

Selfishly I will miss him. I will miss his knowledge in sports that he brought to the show and I will miss how he could give and take fun loving banter with Reggie Jackson. I know how busy he will be but I hope he can find the time to come on the show again. Anthony really was a big fan favorite on ESPN Impact. Even though he was always on demand at Fox and CNBC, he always found the time to come to our show and have fun with us. He never saw us as the “little guy.” Thank you Anthony, we will always be grateful for that. I know our country needs you more.

Anthony is a good man who has a great sense of humor. When he told me that he owned a small piece of the Mets I told him,that doesn’t necessarily make you a bad guy. Naturally we had a good laugh over it.

On the other hand when he found out that my son Ricky had been drafted in the Major League Baseball draft but not assigned a team he showed concern for a young mans dream.

It’s not like Anthony and I are close friends, of course we’re not. However that tells me that he has concerns for all people and the White House situation is in better hands. A good choice by the President for a good man.

I’m just gonna have to dig deeper to find other good guest for my show on ESPN Deportes Impact . The only bilingual radio show in sports and entertainment.

What the heck, I figured I’d give the show a free plug.

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Negron’s Impact: Just Like Bogey and Bacall, The Making of “Stano”

One of the poorest congressional districts in the United States happens to be the Bronx, Yet it’s funny that some of the greatest times in this city seem to happen in poor little Bronx.

Whether it’s the Yankees winning 27 World Championships, the circus performing here or the fact that some of the greatest performers and world leaders were born here in the Bronx.  People like Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Academy Award Winner Burt Lancaster, and television host Regis Philbin or me.

There have also been a lot of movies filmed in the Bronx, too many to mention. On Tuesday, the Bronx was “burning again” when people were running up and down Arthur Avenue saying that Joe and Sofia were in the neighborhood. For you non movie fans, Joe is Joe Manganiello and Sofia is Sofia Vergara. (By the way they also happen to be married.) They are in the Bronx filming a movie called “Stano.”

Stano is about a Bronx boy with a dream and how the facts of life sometimes can derail our dreams. Stano is a film about Love, strength, vision and desire.

After reading the script, I knew that I had to be a part of this as an associate producer. After meeting the writer, Robert Bruzio, feeling his heart and soul and finding out how he formulated this story, I knew this film would be a winner. I heard that Manganiello and his brother Nick were producers in this project and that told me just how much they believed in this film. I was told that Sofia was doing this film and also working on her TV show Modern Family pretty much at the same time. Not too many actors would do this unless they thought the project was really very special.  The film is being produced by Lynn Hendee and Bill Chartoff of the famous Chartoff Hollywood production company which brought us all of the Rocky classics and last year brought us the very popular big hit “Creed.”

Another one of the producers in the film is Robert Molloy, the Grandson of the great NY Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. I guess this tells you that the film has a little bit of a baseball twist to it–I won’t say.

The film will be in production from now until mid-September with scenes also being shot in Staten Island.
I must congratulate Screen writer Robert Bruzio on his first film. I worked with Neil Simon on the film “The Sluggers Wife” and at that time Simon had already done a dozen films but he was still extremely nervous on the set. I can only imagine what Robert is going through!

Thank you Joe and Sofia for bringing class and dignity to my beloved Bronx.

My Boss, George Steinbrenner would have been proud of both of you and the Chartoff group for bringing this project to the Bronx.

Joe and Sofia will always remind me of Bogey and Bacall….great actors with great hearts. When you watch the old Bertie Higgins music video Key Largo, you can’t help but to think of Joe and Sofia. Being an old movie romantic, I only hope that their romance is just like Bogey and Bacall.

Not to take anything away from the great Chazz Palminteri but I guess this is just another Bronx Tale!
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Negron: Nelson Cruz an All-Star in Every Way

The last time that I attended an all-star game was in 1977. The players at that time were named Reggie and Munson and Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver and the all-time hit leader, Pete Rose. It really was a galaxy of all-stars.

This year the all-star game was going through a revamp. The names now are Harper and Judge and Cano (who was the MVP for getting the game winning HR) and Sano and Giancarlo etc. Nice names that in the near future will make baseball really great again.

My favorite name of all happens to be Nelson Cruz, the outfielder for the Seattle Marines. The reason is not because he happens to be one of the great power hitters in the game (even though he is.) It’s because he is one of the great gentleman in sports. He really cares for thy fellow man. He quietly does a lot for the less privileged throughout all of Latin America.

Even though Nelson is from the Dominican Republic, he has organized campaigns to help other Latin countries with food and medical issues. A couple of years ago, I was thrilled to make a humanitarian presentation to Nelson at the United Nations. As always, Nelson was truly very humble in his acceptance.

A person that has quietly been one of the great humanitarians throughout my forty four years in sports is the former Mariners catcher and presently the broadcaster for the MLB network Dave Valle. I asked Dave what his opinion was of the humanitarian efforts of Cruz and Valle said, “He is wonderful. What he has done and what he can do for his country is overwhelming.”

Dave Valle would know a thing or two about helping in the Dominican Republic. Dave heads one of the Dominicans biggest charities, called Esperanza. They have helped to build schools, create jobs, and create businesses.

You have to wonder how a person becomes such a terrific individual and it doesn’t surprise me that Nelson has two of the greatest parents a person could have. I’m sure it helps that they are both teachers in the Dominican.

The highlight of the all-star game for me was when Nelson came to bat. Nelson asked the catcher, Molina if he would take a picture of the umpire, Joe West, and himself. I asked Nelson why he wanted a picture since he is a person that never makes waves or brings attention to himself, and he said that he wanted to honor the retiring umpire for a job really well done.

At the after party, he gave the attention to my son, Ricky, who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves. He joked with Ricky that he should have been a Yankee.

Former Yankee Robinson Cano had only one thing to say about Nelson Cruz, “The Greatest!” I have to agree.

Diamond Dust

A special congratulations to the Yankees contingent at the game. They were very classy in how they went about their business.  You could tell that other players noticed how special it truly is to be a Yankee in an all-star game or in a World Series.

I must add that yes, Aaron Judge is all that and can hit a baseball a long way, but more importantly he really is a very nice young man and I hope that all the attention that he is getting and will continue to get does not overwhelm him to the point that he shuts himself off from the fans like other big time Yankee stars of the past.

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Negron’s Impact: New York Times Students Hit The City To Learn Sports Business From Those Who Get It Done

For the second straight early summer, high school students from all over the country come to New York for a two week crash course in the business of sports. Taught by longtime New York area sports business pro Joe Favorito, the program gives these rising juniors and seniors a chance to find out what they like, and maybe don’t like, about a field they may be passionate about.

On Thursday, the class, which also includes a young lady from Amsterdam and a Yemeni-American softball player from Texas, spent the day at Yankee Stadium, where Yankees Magazine editor Al Santasiere spent time with them talking about the ins and outs of business life with the Bronx Bombers, as well as imparting career advice (“Use your internships as a semester long job interview,” was one of his pearls of wisdom shared, along with the value of networking and working hard).

Several of the students are aspiring journalists, so the day, which included tours of Monument Park and the Yankee Museum, served them well.

Yankee Stadium was only one of the stops during the two week program for the group, which includes students from as far away as San Diego and Los Angeles and as close as the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They visited MLB Advanced Media to talk digital sports, the Barclays Center to learn about the arena business, another trip to Yankee Stadium to check out NYCFC and even Coney Island to see how the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest is run. Some of the students even crossed paths with former Giant now Packers tight end Martellus Bennett and retired Yankee Alex Rodriguez while they were in midtown last week.

They will wrap the program with a special presentation on Friday, and will even get to hear from former Mets and Oakland A’s pitching coach Rick Peterson on how the inner workings of an MLB team operate.

“The goal of the program is to give these kids an important look into all areas of sports business, with the hope that they realize they can turn a passion into a real career, which should allay some of their parents fears,” Favorito, who also does a similar but more intense program for Columbia University later in the summer, said.  “We bring in experts in many fields, from collegiate sports to brands to media members, and give the students real life experience that can hopefully help them choose a college, and with that get a better understanding of the great potential that lies ahead.”

There is nothing better than work life experience, and these students are learning from some of the best, in the greatest city in the world for sports and business.  This past week we would have celebrated the Boss’s 87th birthday. Nothing would have made him happier than to spend time with all of these kids and to give them advice on life and the career paths that they might choose.  He was great with young people especially when he saw that they were serious about their education. As a parent, I thank the Yankees for never forgetting and always welcoming young people who are just realizing their dreams.

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Negron’s Impact: A Hank’s Yanks Dream Comes True

Every dad that loves baseball and has a son dreams that some day his son plays professional baseball. Two weeks ago, my son Ricky was drafted by the Atlanta Braves. To say that it brought tears to my eyes would be an understatement. Ricky was an original member of Hanks Yanks and the 16th player signed from the organization.

Dreams do come true. This week the Cleveland Indians signed George Valera, an outfielder that played four seasons for Hank Steinbrenner’s storied youth baseball team Hank’s Yanks.

Hank and I founded the team in 2010 and George came on board in 2012.

“Jojo” as he was known to his teammates, was an exceptional baseball player but more importantly he was already an exceptional person. Jojo was on our junior team and his parents felt that it was so important for him to be on Hank’s Yanks that the youngster used to commute from the Bronx to Long Island. His parents and coach, Sandy Kyrkostas was always able to work out the long journey to Baseball Heaven in Yaphank. Even organizational coach, Aris Sakellaridis took his turn picking up the youngster and delivering him to his game. Coach Sandy is a motion picture producer by trade and has produced many films including Empire State staring Duane “the Rock” Johnson, a film that George also appeared in.

I had a long talk with Jojo last night and gave him my two cents about pro ball, agents and life as a professional baseball player. I begged him to never change as a person. The thing that impresses me the most about this young man is how he is so grateful to his coach Sandy for teaching him so much as a man. This kid is only 16 years old but you would think he was 26. He is so grateful to Hank Steinbrenner even though he only met him once and says Hank is the reason he wanted, so badly to be on this team.

During this whole conversation, not once did he ever mention that the Indians gave him one million three hundred thousand dollars.

During the eight years that we have had the Hank’s Yanks teams, we have had seventeen players signed and I can honestly say that most usually talk about their bonus money. This kid never mentioned it. I thought that was so very cool.

I asked him what the most important thing was that he got out of Hank’s Yanks and Jojo said, “This was the first time that I had actually been around white people and because of this experience I now feel comfortable around anyone.

“I actually feel that I learned to be a leader and feel that I can always help all people.”

Jojo was very surprised when I told him that I had worked with Charlie Maher, the team psychologist with the Indians for four years. I told him that he is going to a class organization and that he would really grow as a player and a man there. He asked me if all teams were like this and I told him only a few, but definitely the Yankees!

George Valera wanted to thank his parents, Delabona and Jorge that he loves so much, a school teacher, a Jennifer Jaeger, that introduced him to Hank’s Yanks, and of course his beloved baseball coach Sandy and all the assistant coaches and naturally all of his teammates that he still stays in touch with. The Indians will have Jojo in a Dominican Summer league starting sometime next week. Jojo says that that he will never forget his wonderful summers with Hank’s Yanks.

“Even though I’m with the Indians, I will always be grateful to the Yankees for my wonderful opportunities as a kid,” he said.

Someday the baseball world will be in for a treat when this young man gets to the big leagues. Hank Steinbrenner should be very proud because the labor of his love has produced a very beautiful story.

This year we have three Hank’s Yanks teams in the Bronx so that these kids don’t have to travel so far on school nights.

Go Hank’s Yanks!

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