It’s Christmas and I am driving back from a party for kids that come from a shelter.
My dear friend, Dan Quintero, from the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club always helps me to put this together along with donations from a lot of my dear friends from the Yankees and Alfred Zaccagnino, a pal that I grew up with and who understands what being poor is all about. He may be successful now but he has never forgotten where he came from.
Like me, Alfred lost his mom last year and is going through his first Christmas without her.
I’m also going through my first Christmas without my Dad. I also lost one of my idols this year, Gene Michael. I would usually be having lunch at this time with “the Stick” and Ken Fagan, an Air Force veteran and very dear friend.
When I got into my car after the event I started to cry uncontrollably. I guess I was feeling sorry for myself and feeling sorry for all those kids from the shelter and what they had to go back to and the fact that I’m also limited as to what I can do for them.
I decided to put on the radio to distract myself. All of a sudden, a song came on that I had not heard in many years called “I Believe” by Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic. It touched every emotion that I was feeling at that moment and I honestly believe that it came on to deliver a message to me. The words were very profound and right on the money and all of a sudden my tears turned from deep sadness to a true form of understanding. I went from having a tough time catching my breath to being able to breathe again.
While being caught in crazy traffic because of the Christmas rush, I got a call from my son Jon-Erik who as most of you know is a police officer. He had received a call the evening before that a couple was in trouble on the road, a mother was going into labor. Jon-Erik and police officer, Michael Schneider, were first on the scene and had to assist in delivering the baby. It was a beautiful little girl. What’s incredible in the song, “I Believe” is that there is a verse in the song that says “every time I hear a new born baby cry it tells me I believe.” In life, everything is for a reason. Baseball Hall of famer, Reggie Jackson, is Jon-Erik’s God father. If he is known as Mr. October for his World Series exploits, then Jon-Erik and Michael Schnieder should be known as “Mr. December” for their wonderful effort in helping to bring a new life to this world. The Suffolk County Police Department, Jon-Erik and Michael should all be very proud and always remember the Christmas of 2017.
If that’s not enough, I must tell you that another great friend of mine Tony Melendez, the head of the Bronx Hanks Yanks, our youth baseball organization, was walking home from the baseball facility when he saw an object in the street. It turned out to be a puppy all covered in snow, shaking profusely and was headed out in the street. Like the athlete that he used to be, he ran out onto the street and grabbed the little dog before it got run over by a car. Tony and his wife Jessy cared for the puppy for two days until they found its rightful owners. I must add that when Tony and Jessy gave the puppy back they cried like babies but they made themselves honorary God parents and volunteered to babysit when needed. We gave a nice Christmas party to the kids at the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, a party at the TM Baseball Academy, the home of the Bronx Hanks Yanks.
At the start of the party, an amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner was sung by Brandan Hernandez, a Hank’s Yanks player from the Bronx. He has also performed for the past three years at the US Open. The great Willie Randolph was at the party and gave his heart and soul to the kids. Also present was Dom Scala, former Yankee bullpen catcher from the World Championship teams of the 70s. We even brought in former Yankee batboy and Bronx resident Luis Castillo who talked to the kids about the greatest time of his life and how great the Yankee players made him and all bat boys feel. Rich Mancuso, the terrific boxing writer and analyst, was there with up and coming boxer Jeffrey Gonzalez, who showed the kids some of his moves. The event was televised on Bronx Net and Manhattan Cable. For one night all of the kids felt like stars. A special thank you to all the parents who brought in food to feed everyone and all the companies that donated toys for the kids. A special thank you to Hank and Julia Steinbrenner for always being there and to the whole Yankees organization for giving the Bronx and the city of New York a reason for always feeling proud.
If there are people out there that may be going through a difficult time at this time of year then I recommend that you listen to the song ‘I Believe ‘ by Elvis Presley. It will help.
Merry Christmas to everyone and as my wonderful friend Jose Feliciano has been saying for so many years, Feliz Navidad.