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'Henry & Me' Premieres at the Ziegfeld Theater

Image: 'Henry & Me' Premieres at the Ziegfeld Theater

Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 04:32 PM

In the words of Booker T. Washington, “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” If you were privileged to attend the world premiere of Ray Negron’s animated film, “Henry & Me,” at the Ziegfeld Theater on Aug. 18, you would have clearly understood Washington’s sentiment. Though the film was a strong collaborative effort, Chazz Palminteri commented that it came to fruition because of one man’s spirit — that of Ray Negron.

Negron, who has spent more than 40 years with the New York Yankees organization, got his first big break as a teenager when owner George Steinbrenner caught him spray painting graffiti on Yankee Stadium. Instead of sending the young Negron off to jail, Steinbrenner sent him to the Yankees locker room to work as a batboy in order to pay off his damages. At the time, Steinbrenner could not have envisioned how his one small act of kindness would dramatically change Negron’s life and the lives of countless others. Inspired by The Boss’ gesture, Negron decided to dedicate his life to reaching out so he could lift up others. And after The Boss passed on, Yankees President Randy Levine made it possible for Negron to continue to carry out this mission.

Ten years ago, Negron began to spearhead an effort to bring Yankees players into hospital rooms to visit children fighting life-threatening illnesses. Negron was so moved by the visits that he was inspired to write children’s books based on these real-life interactions, including in each a touch of New York Yankees fantasy. He published three best-selling books: “The Boy of Steel: A Baseball Dream Come True,” “The Greatest Story Never Told: The Babe and Jackie,” and “One Last Time,” and subsequently was approached by producer Joe Avallone to create an animated film based on his compelling stories. The result of their efforts is the film “Henry & Me.”

The film is about a young boy named Jack who loves the game of baseball and adores his Yankees. After he is diagnosed with cancer, Jack travels back in time with an angel named Henry and gains strength from old Yankee greats. Throughout, Jack faces seemingly insurmountable obstacles. However, Babe Ruth, Thurman Munson, Lefty Gomez, Reggie Jackson, and Yogi Berra all help Jack to find the courage to overcome them. Eventually, Jack learns that the strength required to defeat his cancer does not come from his beloved Yankees. Rather, it emanates from his ability to believe in himself. The star-studded cast that brings this poignant story to life includes Richard Gere, Chazz Palminteri, Danny Aiello, Cyndi Lauper, Paul Simon, Lucie Arnaz, Joseph Gian, and Luis Guzman. The voice of George Steinbrenner is supplied by his son, Hank; the voices of current Yankee players can be heard throughout the film.

“Henry & Me,” a must-see for children and adults alike, is the culmination of Ray Negron’s life’s work. The film is a tribute to the Yankees, George Steinbrenner, and the courage of all people in the world who are fighting battles, whatever they may be. Fittingly, each character and scene in the movie is infused with the same Negron spirit that Chazz Palminteri was referring to. The film serves as the Yankees’ tribute to him, as much as it is Negron’s tribute to the Yankees.

“Henry & Me” is available on DVD and digital download on Sept. 30. The DVD is also available exclusively at Yankee Stadium during the month of September.

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"Henry & Me," a must-see for children and adults alike, is the culmination of Ray Negron's life's work. The film is a tribute to the Yankees, George Steinbrenner, and the courage of all people in the world who are fighting battles, whatever they may be.
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