Ray Negron Interviews Left-Handed Baseball Great CC Sabathia Read Newsmax: Ray Negron Interviews Left-Handed Baseball Great CC Sabathia | Newsmax.com Urgent: Do you approve of Pres. Trump? Vote Here in Poll

In 1999, I was in Cleveland helping Cleveland Indians General Manager, John Hart, and his special assistant, Tom (T- Bone) Giordano, with Doc Gooden’s drug recovery program. I also worked with team Psychologist, Charlie Maher, who has been considered one of the best ever in sports. Charlie and John asked me to assist with the latin and young players. One of these young players was a 19 year old kid from California named C.C. Sabathia. John Hart told me at the time that if this kid walked the straight and narrow in baseball that his abilities would get him to the hall of fame. At the time, I remember introducing C.C. to Doc Gooden and I will never forget how excited C.C. was to meet Doc. I will also never forget how honest Doc was with C.C. about his life. I will always be grateful to George Steinbrenner, John Hart and Tom Giordano for agreeing and understanding that I needed to go to Cleveland to babysit Doc. (The Boss literally checked on Doc and me several times during the week.) This also introduced me to the world of sports psychology and how important it is. The highlight will always be the big lefthander from California that is still the same person now that he was 20 years ago, if that’s even possible.

Please read the Q&A with:

C. C. Sabathia and you can watch the video on my Facebook page, Ray Negron or Instagram @raynegronyanks

Ray: So C.C., everything that has been written, I don’t have to ask you anymore, because it’s been out there. Everybody knows the legend of C.C. Sabathia. You were a Cleveland Indian initially, I saw you as a teenage kid, how do you feel about the fact that it’s been so long ago?

C.C.: Yeah, it’s been 19 years since I came up. It’s been a blessing. Being able to get the chance to play for this organization late in my career, I couldn’t ask for a better organization to come to. The last 11 years has been unbelievable. To be able to end with the Yankees was a dream of mine. I thank the Steinbrenner family for getting that done and letting me end my career here. I am excited for this last year and to go out with a bang.

Ray: I take great pride with the fact that in your free agency year I used to say to you “Please think about the Yankees.” Do you remember that?

C.C.: Yeah, of course!

Ray: “Please think about the Yankees, it would be a great time.” How do you feel about my premonition?

C.C.: It worked out. Even in 2008 when I was getting traded we talked. I wanted to go through that free agency process and just make sure I checked all those boxes off and was able to still come here. It’s been a great deal.

Ray: I’ve been here 46 years. I’ve seen it all whether it was Munson, Pinella, Reggie; you have taken the whole thing of being off the field, children, helping, from the heart, where did that come from?

C.C.: I think it was something that I was born with. When I was a kid I got to meet Dave Stewart when I was 9-years old and the impact that had on my life made me want to give back to kids. If I can have that affect on one kid in the Bronx or in California, it’s all worth it. For me meeting Dave Stewart at 9-years old gave me the incentive to start a Foundation and do all of these things across the country. If one kid can see that and start his own Foundation and do those things, it’s all worth it.

Ray: What you did on the field helped you become that much greater off the field. Kids that will become grown men will never forget the legend of C.C. Sabathia, because you started helping a lot of these kids when they were 8, 10, 12, 15, and now they are 25 and 30. How do you feel about how you helped some of these kids grow up?

C.C.: Yeah it’s amazing. Especially when I get a chance to see some of those scholarships we give out and see those kids graduate college and come back and help my community in Vallejo, and different things between helping the community in the Bronx and the Boys and Girls Club, it’s a great thing. It’s a way to leave my legacy and leave my name.

Ray: Everywhere I go throughout New York, first question that comes out of these kids’ mouths, “do you know CC Sabathia?” And I am proud to be able to say that I know you. And I just want to be able to say to all people that we have to thank you for your kindness, your generosity, and always treating me a regular kid from these streets with class and dignity, you never big-leagued me and I am eternally grateful for that.

C.C.: I have to say thank you too. Meeting you at 19 years old made a big impact on me in my life in those Indian years I never forget, so I have to say thank you.

Ray: It’s been a great honor and thank you for the great compliment.

C.C.: Thanks.

Ray Negron is a sports executive with over 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth. He has become an American film producer, a best-selling author, and a philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers.” For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

Negron: Keeping the Boss’ Empire Alive

When the great George M. Steinbrenner passed away in July of 2010, I felt like my world was crushed. The man that had literally given me a life in the incredible sport of baseball was gone. Through him, I learned that baseball was more than a game. He also taught me that if I believed in myself, there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do.

One day I was standing in George’s office at the old Yankee Stadium with about 20 of his college buddies. You’re talking about guys that attended Brown University, Yale , Dartmouth, Ohio State …you name it. As these high level individuals were talking about their academic achievements, I felt terribly out of place. At that moment the Boss noticed me just staring down, so all of a sudden, in his thunderous voice, he screamed out ‘Negrón put your head up.’ He then said ‘I know what you’re thinking. Don’t you realize that you went to the greatest University of all?’ At that moment I said to myself ‘what is this madman talking about?’ At that instance he said, ‘You went to the University of Steinbrenner at Yankee Stadium.’ I can honestly say that I wasn’t embarrassed anymore. Even though everyone was laughing, I know that in his heart the Boss meant it. He always tried to make me feel good about myself especially with the fact that when he first got me off the streets, I was dealing with a very bad case of low self esteem.

Throughout the years he let me get involved with different film projects, at times even introducing me to some Hollywood producers that would give me film parts. He even allowed me to get started in writing my children’s books.

The thing that I loved the most was the “bird’s eye” view I got of how he ran the great Yankee Empire. How he loved the magnitude of owning sports’ greatest team. He also talked about how he wanted for the Yankees to be beloved long after he was gone.

In my mind George Steinbrenner would never die because to me he was like a God. Well unfortunately there is only one God and the Boss did die. Next to my parents dying, that, and Thurman Munson dying, was the worst day of my life.

I walked in a daze for a week. I couldn’t imagine the world without the Boss. Remember that I had been around this “Giant” for 37 years. Selfishly I wondered what would happen to me now that he was gone. I actually got into a mental funk. I wondered how the Yankees would keep going. Would everything fall apart?

The thing that I wasn’t aware of was, that in his own way, the Boss was preparing for when he would no longer be there any longer.

In the 1980s he hired an intern from Kentucky that would learn every part of the baseball operations and he would work with all of the Boss’s great baseball people, including Gene Michael. To date, he has become the longest tenured General Manager. That man is Brian Cashman. On a personal note, one of the reasons that I like this man so much is when he first came to work for the Yankees, he wasn’t afraid to live in the south Bronx.

In 1963, there was a Stadium vendor selling hot chocolate and god knows what else. He was a kid that came from East New York in Brooklyn. At that time (and to this day) it was the toughest neighborhood in New York. He worked his way through College, got his law degree, went to work for some big time law firms including Shea Gould. He started doing some legal work for the Yankees in 1976 and has been our Chief Operating Officer for over 20 years. He has gone on to do some incredible things for the Yankee brand. His name is Lonn Trost.

Then there is a gentleman who was working for former Mayor Rudy Giuliani from 1997-2000 as the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, Planning and Administration . This man was also involved with the big labor movement in Major League Baseball. I was told that, in high school, he was a hot shot basketball player. The thing that the Boss told me that he liked about this guy was that he reminded him of himself. The Boss always liked to think of himself as one very tough hombre. And yes ladies and gentlemen he was and so is this man. His name is Randy Levine, the President of the New York Yankees.

For that matter, all three of them can be very tough guys. These guys will not be pushed around. I can honestly say that that is something that the Boss wanted in his top soldiers. The other thing that was very important to the Boss was that these men always do the right thing by the common man. I think they have more than done that. No organization in sports or any business for that matter has done more to help so many people like the Yankees.

In 2005 George Steinbrenner gave me the go ahead to do my first children’s book. It was called ‘The Boy of Steel.’ When I completed that book and was going over the art work, there was one picture missing, one of the Boss.

When my artist did the picture of the Boss, she looked at me and asked me what’s wrong? I said there is something missing. She asked me what it was. I said that the picture would not be complete without The Boss’s three top soldiers from his Empire. I don’t know if it was a premonition or what but that picture won us some book awards and the book went on to become the international children’s book of the year, beating out, I’m proud to say, Gloria Estefan’s great children’s book that year.

With the success of that book, out came the haters. One unnamed person actually said that he wrote the book because he gave me some advice on it, as had others. This angered the Boss so much that he told me to do another book just to show everyone that I wasn’t a fluke. Well I ended up doing three more, one better than the next.

Getting back to the Boss’s three hombres, I can honestly say that the Boss would be so proud at how these men have run the Boss’s Mona Lisa. How they have helped guide the Steinbrenner family well into the 21st century with the advancement of the YES TV Network and all the great entertainment projects including soccer matches and musical concerts.

Like many people, I miss the Boss dearly but I’m blessed to be able to be around the people that refuse to forget the greatness of George M. Steinbrenner. It’s wonderful that they truly help to keep his dream alive.

Negron: Thurman’s Car

As we approach the last days of August I can’t help but think that 40 years would’ve gone by since I said my final good bye to my pal, Thurman Munson.

By now I’m sure that you have read and heard all the different, and crazy yet wonderful things about someone who was a hero to me and many others.

I first met Thurman in June of 1973 at the original Yankee Stadium. We would actually become friends during the 1974 season when I started to go on the road with the Yankees. While on the road after games, a lot of the guys would hang out in their rooms playing cards or just talking and I would go from room to room taking food orders and going out to get the food.

Many times I would go to Thurman’s room and he would just want to talk. He would always tell me about himself and his family or just talk about the team. The thing that made me really like him was that he would ask me about me. His questions about my background made me feel like I mattered. Different things in his background were somewhat like mine. Our fathers were pretty much alike in how they dealt with us, but that’s a story for another day.

During the 1974 and ‘75 seasons the Yankees were known as the “Band on the Run.” That was the very popular Paul McCartney song at the time. The reason for that was because we were playing at Shea Stadium while they were renovating Yankee Stadium.

During the 1974 season Thurman and Bobby Murcer and Lou Piniella would have me hit in their groups during batting practice because they had seen me working out during workouts and knew that I would get drafted in the upcoming baseball draft.

To say that this was the greatest thing for my confidence would be an understatement. That summer I was by far the best hitter in the youth summer baseball circuits in New York and shocked everyone when I ended up getting drafted in the 2nd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. That would not have happened without the incredible confidence boost that I got from Thurman, Murcer and Piniella and of course Walt “No Neck” Williams, (an affectionate nickname for a player who had a physique where it looked like he did not have a neck) a utility outfielder, that was always talking hitting with Thurman.

People used to tell me to watch it with Thurman because he could get very grumpy but when he was your friend, nothing was further from the truth. I have to say that the reason that I became friendly with Thurman was because I actually idolized Gene Michael, the Yankee shortstop at that time.

Gene “Stick” (as he was known) Michael was very close to Thurman and really knew how to get through to him. Thurman really trusted “Stick.” They went to the same college in Ohio, (Kent State) however at different times. I remember one time Thurman getting angry with a reporter and like clockwork Gene was able to calm Thurman down. I would have to say that the two players that influenced Thurman the most during that era were Gene and Bobby Murcer. Bobby you could say was our matinee idol and unofficial leader.

After the 1974 season ended the Yankees released Gene Michael and traded Bobby Murcer for Bobby Bonds. Thurman and Bonds became very close friends. Bonds was actually a great influence on Munson and would always tell Thurman why he had to be a leader in his own way.

When you’re a batboy and truly, truly love baseball and the Yankees, then you get to observe things that no one else did. One time Willie Randolph asked me how did I remember everything that I did and I would tell him that since I wasn’t a player I knew that when I got into the clubhouse, I would sit down strap in and get ready to watch the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

“The Show” really became a hit when the Boss George Steinbrenner signed Reggie Jackson before the 1977 season. By the time we got back to the refurbished Yankee Stadium, Thurman became our official Captain. He led by true example, not by having a letter C on his shirt.

Let me add that no one was allowed to call him Captain and if you did he would give you the worst facial expression. You knew you screwed up. By 1978, Thurman would be flying home on a regular basis on his airplane.

I don’t remember how it happened but I became Thurman’s driver to Teterboro Airport. I loved doing it because it would give me time alone with Thurman. Time alone where we could talk about everything and anything. To this day I can honestly say that those talks have stayed right here. Diana, Thurman’s wife is probably the only person that I have ever talked to about that. From a selfish perspective, the other reason I loved driving Thurman to the airport was because after dropping him off I would have a brand new Cadillac to use.

In the 70s having a Cadillac was like having a Mercedes today. I thought I was so cool because I would show up at my games driving Thurman Munson’s “Cadi.” One time Thurman checked his odometer and saw all the extra miles on it and asked me where did I drive, to Hawaii? I told him I had games in Long Island so he asked me didn’t Reggie give you a car to use? I said yes but do you want to show up at your game in a Volkswagen Rabbit or a Thurman Munson Cadillac? He started to laugh and said you got a point there.

When I didn’t use the Cadillac, then Reggie would have me park it in the garage in his 5th Avenue apartment building. Reggie always paid for the parking but he told me not to tell Thurman that he paid. I loved the fact that Thurman and Reggie had become very good friends. Reggie even flew with Thurman on his plane. One time Reggie gave me a check to give Thurman for the gas on the plane. When I handed it to Thurman he started to laugh and said I’m gonna keep the check just for the autograph. Sometimes, Thurman would fly back to NY with his wife Diana and this is when I would get to know Diana and the wonderful and fun relationship that they had.

Sometime in July of 1979, I was supposed to drive Thurman to Teterboro Airport after the game. Because of a rain delay or extra innings the game ran late. After packing his bags I was helping him take his things to his car. At that moment Thurman turned to me and said, ‘I’m gonna drive myself to the airport.’ I asked why and he said that he didn’t want me to be driving back from New Jersey by myself. It was already midnight. He said he would really feel guilty if something happened. He said ‘and besides, you can use Reggie’s Rabbit’ and he started to laugh. So I walked him up the stairs and we crossed the street to the players’ parking lot. We said some little “chit chat” and he got into his brown Cadillac and then he started to drive out. All of a sudden he stopped the car. I thought he had changed his mind and was gonna have me take him to Teterboro. Instead he said ‘Ok silly rabbit, Trix are for kids” (mimicking the breakfast cereal’s slogan) See you when I get back. That was Thurman being funny in reference to me and Reggie’s Rabbit.

The rest is history. As you know Thurman perished in a fatal plane accident. On August 3rd, the day after Munson died, George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin would come up to me and tell me that I had to go to Teterboro to pick up Thurman’s car. I immediately said no. Billy said you have to and the Boss said this is not an option. The Boss made it a point that I was the only one that they could trust with Thurman’s car. At that moment I understood.

I got another Batboy named Hector Pagan to drive me there. When I got into the car I started it and the radio was on and the station playing was WKTU Radio, which was a popular disco station. This told me that Thurman was tired driving to the airport. The reason I say this was because Thurman was into music like Neil Diamond etc. the only time he would listen to disco would be in the clubhouse so that he would dance with Mickey Rivers, especially on Saturday mornings when the popular TV show, “Soul Train” would be on.

To say that the drive back to the Stadium was a nightmare is an understatement. I cried and I screamed and I punched the seat and the dashboard of the car until I got back to the ball park. Even right now I still cry. Thurman Munson was a friend, he was my friend, he was a good person, he was a caring person. If you would have known him, 40 years later you also would still be crying.

Negron: Gio Urshela, A Hero, On and Off the Field

Gio Urshela is a hero in more ways than one.

On his off day, Gio heard of ALS patient Dan Colon and the battle that he has been staging against this horrible disease. He was told about the fact that a play (“BATBOY”) was being performed in Dan’s honor in order to raise money to help him and his family. Gio was even asked to perform on stage with Bernie Williams.

Through his laughter, Gio handled his lines like a pro. To see Gio and Dan Colon was very heart warming.

For one day Gio Urshela made Dan forget about his suffering. To see Gio hug a man that he didn’t even know showed me the incredible heart of this young man. I have gotten to know Gio this season and knew that he was the right guy to take on this very difficult assignment. The Yankees’ third baseman was compassionate and caring and did a wonderful job.

When Gio got to Baltimore he thought about Dan and his horrible disease. He thought about the fact that he has his family (the Yankees) to rely on and he was hoping that Dan would have the same support. Well Dan does have a great family that supports him and after meeting and spending a great evening with Gio, he has someone that he can root for.

Last night, Gio hit two home runs and in his heart Danny feels like that was for him.
Gio may have given Dan Colon extra life and every one that loves Dan also loves Gio for it.

Special thanks go out to Bucky Dent, Bernie Williams, David Cone, and Mickey Rivers for the love that they showed Dan Colon on this beautiful night.

Negron: Bottom of the 9th No. 1 for Third Week

Next to being at Yankee Stadium, my favorite thing in the world is being on a movie set. I have been blessed to of done approximately a dozen films. Four of them were baseball oriented films. The last one being Bottom of the 9th.

This film stars Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara.

This film has shocked the industry because even though it wasn’t such a large budget film, the quality of the progress in making the film would tell you otherwise.

The script is really well done by Bronx native Robert Bruzio and the story behind it told me that it was very personal. When Anthony Rinaldo an early in the process film consultant came to me about getting involved in the film because of my life of redemption in baseball, I told him that I had to think about it. It wasn’t until Anthony showed up at Yankee Stadium with Rocky and Creed producer Bill Chartoff that I agreed to do it. I must add that it did also help that Bruzio actually had me spend an afternoon with the original director of the film, Academy Award winner John Avildson.

The three of us drove all around the Bronx and the whole time John asked me about my life with the great George Steinbrenner and how he was so intrigued with such a wonderful and unusual relationship. He had read my book and said that it had the potential of being a great film. A film that he would want to do. I have to admit that I was extremely flattered. What was shocking to me was that John actually filmed our whole time together with a secret camera that Bruzio knew was on but didn’t tell me. Avildson actually made a little documentary out of it.

I was extremely saddened that John would die four months later. I don’t know of the couse. He was 81.
The terrific director Raymond Defelitta took over the reigns as director and did a wonderful job in Bottom of the 9th.

Bill Chartoff and his partner Lynn Hendee asked me to become the associate producer and Bruzio was insistent that with my experience as a baseball man and as an actor that I perform as coach Negrón in the film.

As the associate producer, I had the opportunity to hire a lot of ex players to play the roles of Manganiello’s teammates and opponents. I even got to slip in some friends that looked like players but had no idea how to put on a glove. It was a wonderful time on the set and I was able to bring on Robert Molloy, Mr. Stienbrenner’s grand son and a film producer of several movies,to help me with all baseball scenarios. He was also an associate producer.

Gene Michael and Tom “T-bone” Giordano two of the greatest scouts in the history of the game were also supposed to of been in the film but they to also died during the shooting. If you noticed during the scouting scene a couple of seats were left empty in honor of these two great men. Raymond Defelitta actually played the part of the scout.
Michael Rispoli was terrific as the Empire manager.

You get to see a lot of Billy Martin in Rispoli and former Mets coach Rob Dromerhauser schooled the heck out of Rispoli. Former Yanks bullpen coach and Adelphi University head coach Dom Scala was very funny on the set because I had to continuously explain that this is Hollywood not real life. However he kept scolding the actors for not making certain plays.

I think Dom’s insistence in perfection may of made the actors overachieve as players.

One of my big thrills was to work with one of Hollywood’s greatest cinematographers Barry Markowitz. There isn’t an angle that this man wouldn’t shoot from. I also love the fact that he is now a lifelong friend. The same can be said about make up head Scott Hersh who has been there for me during the productions of my play BATBOY.

I want to thank all the actors/players who made my job very easy during production. Pat Stoffer Bryan Dromerhauser Bryan & Jimi Giles Jon-Erik Negron Cesar Presbott. Just to many to mention them all. I must add that Larry Travolta Davis did a fine job as the opposing manager.

All in all it was a great film to work on. The people on the set were fantastic and I must add that one of the highlights of the film was when Brian Cashman and Bernie Williams made their cameo appearance on the film. It truly was a wow moment.

Kudos to former big leaguer Brian Wilson who was so convincing in playing himself. Exactly what that is you will have to find out for yourself.

After writing this article I now understand why this film has been number one for three weeks. It really is a fun film to watch.

Special thanks to the Manganiello brothers for believing in this project. Also to Robert Bruzio because your dream helped put a lot of people to work including me.

Negron: Gary Understands the Magnitude of Munson Legacy

When I got to spring training this year I had heard the little whispers about Gary Sanchez. About how he wasn’t the same player last season as he was the previous season. I didn’t believe it for a second because if you know this kid, then you know his work ethic. For one thing he worked very hard this off season to be very ready for a new season.

Since the day Gary got to the big leagues I have been talking to him about Thurman Munson. I have told him how hard he worked and every once in a while I would give him a message from Thurman’s wife Diana. During the Yanks fantasy camp I told Diana that I was gonna relate some of the positive things to Gary that I learned from Thurman and some things that me and Diana shared.

After one of the Yanks’ practice sessions, I got together with Gary and organization catching coach Lino Díaz and we just talked about Munson. We talked about how positive of a person he was. We talked about how actions spoke louder than words with Thurman. We talked about how after forty years, the magnitude of the man could be so strong. We talked about all Thurman wanted to do was put the team on his shoulders and carry them to the finish line.

I remember after speaking to Gary last week and telling him how proud I was of him. I gave him a kiss and told him that was from Thurman. When I walked away tears actually filled my eyes because the last thing that Gary said to me was I truly do understand the magnitude of what this man meant to this organization and this city.

Today Gary Sanchez will be the starting catcher for the American League All Stars in Cleveland, Ohio, the state where Thurman Munson was born and raised. I can guarantee you that the Munson family will be watching in nearby Canton Ohio rooting on Gary Sanchez.

Life unfortunately goes on with or without us, however if you knew Thurman Munson than you would understand why his spirit is always here. If you knew Gary Sanchez than you would understand why I’m rooting for this kid to carry on the Yankees great catching legacy.

Negron: How The Boss Helped Gooden Throw a No-Hitter

It was spring training of 1996, and the Yankees had a former Cy Young Award winner pitching vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, who were putting a hurting on the pitcher. This was the third consecutive start that the pitcher, who was known as “Dr. K,” was getting pounded.

Yes, Dwight Gooden was having a horrible spring training. Many scouts were telling Yankees’ Owner, George Steinbrenner, that Gooden should probably be sent down or even released. One scout even told the Boss that it was a noble experiment on his part but he should give up before it becomes embarrassing.

The Boss went to his pitching guru, Billy Connors, and asked him ‘what should we do.’ Billy told the Boss that we should give him more time because Doc had not pitched in a year due to his suspension from baseball. One scout even recommended that the Boss make him a relief pitcher but the Boss had always been enamored with the legend of Doc Gooden and really believed that the good Doctor, as the Boss liked to call him, could come back.

The Boss literally willed Doc into pitching back to prominence. He had many one on one conversations with Gooden and when he had to, he scolded him like a father. Mr. Steinbrenner paid as much attention to Gooden as I had seen him show any player in all my years with the Boss. Doc once asked me does he take this much time with all the players and I responded by saying, only if he loves you.

I remember one time in 1996, Doc got hurt during a game and the first two people in the trainer’s room besides Gene Monahan was myself and Mr. Steinbrenner. I remember putting my hand on Doc’s leg and the Boss sarcastically saying, ‘I didn’t know you were a Doctor too, Negron.’ That was the only time Doc laughed. The Boss asked Doc how he felt and Gooden said it hurts when you make me laugh.

Well, as we all know David Cone suffered an aneurysm and Doc got into the rotation and on May 14 of that year Doc Gooden pitched a no-hitter. Gooden valiantly pitched that game for his dying father who was about to have open heart surgery. Even though the Boss wanted Doc to go home to be with his dad, Gooden wanted to pitch the game first. Doc just felt that it might be just the medicine that his father needed.

Well as we all know, 23 years ago today, Doc did pitch the no hitter. Rookie shortstop Derek Jeter caught the final out on a pop up that took forever to come down. Doc was carried off the field and the next morning when Doc walked into the hospital room, his biggest surprise was not that his Dad was lying there. It was that George Steinbrenner was sitting next to Dan Gooden with his hand on Dan. I think that this meant more to Doc than pitching the no hitter. I don’t know, I have never asked. I tried to keep that moment light by saying to Mr. Steinbrenner…….’Boss, I didn’t know you were a doctor also.’

Negron: Missing My Mom On Her Day

This will be my third Mother’s Day without my mom.

The fact that I still have her number in my phone and get the urge to call her every day doesn’t make it easier. If you had as special a mom as most of us did then naturally we will miss them for ever. They say it gets easier with time. Well it doesn’t, we just learn to deal with it.

Yesterday I was taking my nightly bath. That’s my time to meditate. I listen to music through my radio that you scream at and say OK Google, then you mention the song and like magic the song or the album comes on. So I screamed ‘OK Google, Frankie Valli’ and for what ever strange reason the song “MY MOTHER’S EYES” came on. The words are so compelling, so beautiful, and the song literally puts you in a beautiful setting with your wonderful mom at probably the greatest moment that you had ever had with her. As Frankie Valli sings the song it feels like he is literally crying.

It was an incredible roller coaster ride because one moment I’m a little boy and my mom is telling me how great I can be. She is making sure I look perfect before leaving for school. Saying that me and my sisters are the most important things in the world to her. Then just like that my MAMA is gone.

I want to think that I made her proud. She was truly a big reason for any semblance of success that I may of had. She never took credit for it. She was just happy that through the Yankees I was able to pursue my dreams.

My mom, the strongest woman that I had ever known, died of Alzheimer’s related causes. She suffered for several years with this. One day I was laying in bed holding her, she was talking like a one year old child and at that moment I knew she was gone. I hugged her very, very tight. Prayed to her and God and basically said goodbye.

When she died, I was naturally devastated because the most important person in my world was gone. Literally all the people that I loved were gone. The men that helped mold me like my uncles Hector, Kino, Vincent and Roman. They were my mom’s brothers.

The Boss meant so much to me and he was gone. My Pop is gone, but to lose my Mama, just devastating. I remember walking into the funeral parlor and seeing all the flowers, I thought that was so very nice. Some of my friends that couldn’t afford flowers, brought them anyway. I could hear my mother screaming now about spending too much money. Boy, she would be mad but so very grateful at the same time. I saw this gigantic floral arrangement from my pal Alfred Zac and I was really happy to see the flowers from the Yankees. Mom would’ve really liked that because she was always grateful for all that the Yankee family had done for me. Then I saw this other beautiful arrangement.

This one was from Frankie Valli and his “4 Seasons” band. Tears came to my eyes because Frankie and his friendship and his right hand man Robbie Robinson have meant the world to me. The day after the funeral I was a lost soul , a wondering stranger not knowing whether I was coming or going. Robbie Robinson called me and said we are going to be at a theater on Broadway and Frankie wants you to come. I told him the I was just not in the mood. Robbie is a very spiritual man and knew how distraught I was and said all the right things to get me there.

When I got to the theater I was told to go to Frankie’s dressing room. I hung out with Frankie until just before show time. Then we went to the area behind the stage and Frankie and the band had a prayer session of which they included my Mother Jenny. Frankie and Robbie asked if I had a picture of my mom. I always do. They took it on stage and put it on Robbie’s keyboard. Can you believe it , The original Jenny from the Bronx made it to Broadway!

This is my Mother’s Day Story and whether your mom is still with us or not, think of how great they were or are.


Negron: Her Heart is a Yankee Miracle

Ten years ago, I brought Yankee rookie outfielder Brett Gardner to visit some sick kids at a hospital in Manhattan. This is a tradition that was actually taught to me by the great Yankee catcher and Captain, Thurman Munson. He quietly would go to hospitals and schools as long as there would not be any fanfare surrounding the event because he didn’t want any distractions to mess up the event from the kids.

Reggie was also very good in these settings because he was never afraid to show affection towards these kids. Bobby Murcer was very sentimental when it came to visiting kids or adults in hospitals. Bobby actually showed me that it was ok to cry. The Boss, George Steinbrenner, was great because he would make the kids feel like they were his equal.

One of the great visits I got to share with a Yankee was when I had plans to visit a little boy at a hospital with Chien-Ming Wang. I got up that morning and looked at the sports page and realized that he was pitching that day. There is an unwritten rule that says that if a starting pitcher is pitching that day he is not supposed to do any kind of an appearance. So I called Wang and mentioned this to him. He immediately asked, is this visit going to be so tough that it’s going to affect my start. I said probably not but that’s the rule. Wang said look if you don’t want to come because you might get in trouble then don’t come, however I am not going to let that kid in the hospital down. So he went and I did go with him and I did get reprimanded for taking him. However, Wang did pitch a great game that night in beating the Orioles and the little boy in the hospital had a wonderful visit with the then great Yankee. It’s something that, to this day, he has never forgotten.

When I took Brett Gardner to the hospital, he met a young lady who had been waiting and praying for a heart. With each passing day things were not looking good. Brett actually got to sit in front of a lot of the kids in the hospital and read one of my children’s books. (The Greatest Story Never Told)

After finishing up and signing some autographs for everyone we started to walk out. A girl by the name of Alyssa Esposito went up to Brett and said if you take my bracelet you will hit a home run tonight. The girl said please take it because someway this might help me. Brett smiled and took it. When we got in the car, Brett said I’m not playing tonight and if I play you know I don’t hit home runs. I said, look Brett you did a wonderful job with all the kids and you never know what’s going to happen tonight. Well Brett was right, he wasn’t in the starting lineup however Johnny Damon got into an argument with the umpire and got thrown out of the game. Brett Gardner batted for Damon and he hit a fly ball down the left field line that got past Twins left fielder Denard Span and went all the way to the wall. Gardner raced all around the bases at about 100 miles an hour for the first inside the park homer at the new Yankee Stadium.

As Gardner was celebrating in the dugout, another miracle was happening. The doctors at the hospital were telling Alyssa that they had found her a heart. Ten years later she is a strong beautiful woman who is about to get married in October. She is a strong believer in God and she strongly believes that God sent Brett Gardner to the hospital that day.

Yesterday I got together with Alyssa at the Project Sunshine fundraiser. I got to meet her fiancé. I marveled at her confidence as she addressed the 800 people at the event as she thanked Project Sunshine, the Yankees, her Family and fiancé, and of course her hero who hit her the home run that she so badly needed at that time, Brett Gardner.

I guess that was just another Yankee Miracle.

A special thank you to Sally Cook from Project Sunshine for always pushing me into bringing the players to visit the kids.

Negron: Tip of the Cap Helps ALS Battler Dan Colon

Dan Colon is a 52-year old baseball player from the sandlots of New York and New Jersey. As a kid, he lived in the Bronx and Manhattan. Like most kids of that era, he had the dream of playing in the big leagues. Dan was a very good player, a third baseman, but he fell just short of his dream. Dan went to college, got married, had kids and continued to play baseball. He played for so long and so well in these leagues that he would become a sandlot legend. Always a true gentleman, he was well liked by the players that interacted with him.

Two years ago, he played in a major adult tournament at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. In his final game there, he played so well both offensively and defensively that they were comparing him to Yankee legend Graig Nettles. Play after play, his glove was like a magnet. As fate would have it, Dan even stroked a big double to help win the game. Afterwards, the kids that were there would ask Dan for his autograph. That was truly Dan’s big moment in the sun.

However, fate would not be so kind. Shortly after getting home, Dan started feeling a little strange. His hands were not feeling right. He started having trouble combing his hair. All the little things that we take for granted, Dan was having trouble doing. He started going to doctors for all sorts of exams until he got the horrible news that no one would ever want to hear. Dan has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclorosis or ALS and as it’s come to be known, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” a disease that affects one’s motor skills.

When Dan was telling me about what he’s going through, I couldn’t help but think of the movie, “Pride of the Yankees.” I immediately thought of the scene when Gehrig couldn’t put on his tie. I also though about the fact that just like Dan, Gehrig was a wonderful person.

I asked Dan what keeps him going from day to day and he tells me that, naturally, the love and support that his family gives him and then without skipping a beat, he says his ‘love of the Yankees.’ The fact that he can watch all the games and really stay mentally involved with the team helps him so very much.

Just recently, he was watching a great pitching performance by James Paxton. The left hander struck out 12 hitters in 6 innings. It was the second consecutive start that Paxton struck out 12. It was also a game that, even though it’s early in the season, the Yankees needed a start like that out of Paxton in order to preserve the pitching staff.

The thing that really impressed Dan about the Yankee pitcher was when Yankee Mgr. Aaron Boone came to take him out of the game, Paxton tipped his cap and waved to the fans. Dan asked me when was the last time that you saw that? I told him that it was Jim “Catfish” Hunter. I told Dan that “Catfish” was one of the classiest players that I had ever met in baseball. Just a wonderful man. I told Dan that “Catfish” was the same type person as Dan is. What is ironic is that at just about the same age that “Catfish” would get ALS, Dan was also afflicted with the dreaded disease.

Dan asked me what kind of person James Paxton is. I told him we have had limited conversations but it has always been about reaching out to help kids and charities. Dave Valle, the former catcher and MLB broadcaster, has told me what a terrific young man Paxton is. So Dan responded by saying that he roots for all the Yankees but will root a little harder for James Paxton, just so that he can see that little tip of the cap and also think of “Catfish” Hunter.

Dan asked me if “Catfish” was a fighter? I told Dan that “Catfish” was just like you. With that, Dan said, then he fought ’til the end.

If you would like to help Dan with his fight: