This past Friday night, kids from the Parkland Pokers, a baseball team from south Florida, visited the New York Yankees. As some of you remember, I visited the highschool where the tragic shootings occurred on Feb. 14.
To say that what I witnessed was extremely sad is an understatement. To see the tears of family and friends and people of that community was one of the saddest times that I have ever gone through. I was not there as the Yankees community consultant, but as the father of four children who cares about all children. I was there because I work for an organization and an owner that was always there for all of the children.
When Howard Grosswirth, the Yankees vice president of marketing in Tampa, Florida told me that the kids from Parkland were coming, I was not surprised because Howard, like so many others in the organization, is a great dad and has always gone out of his way for all kids in need. I have to commend him for his efforts with these kids.
Not only did he get them on the field, but he also had Aaron Judge come over to spend quality time with them. Judge took pictures, signed balls caps and naturally took selfies with the kids. Aaron Boone, who has been nothing short of sensational with all kids this spring, did it again.
He was very gracious and understanding of these kids plight. Naturally, the former Yankees captain and great second baseman Willie Randolph came over and was to the kids how he has always been to all kids — wonderful, I guess that’s why Thurman Munson called him Willie Wonder!
The final surprise for these kids was when C.C. Sabathia came over and just like in his book "CC Clause" he really knew how to cheer the kids up and make them laugh. Howard gave all of the kids a Yankee duffel bag filled with lots of goodies.
I asked Ryan Mockenhaupt, one of the players who is considered a team leader, what was the best part of the day and he said that being able to smile and laugh and feel safe surrounded by the Yankees made it one of the best days of his life.
Andrew Sarro, Michael Cacace, Nick Solomon and Josh Espinosa said at different times of the day that it’s just nice to have a day that they don’t have to think about the tragedy that happened at home in Parkland. One of the kids, maybe Ryan said, "I will always be a Yankee fan because they didn’t forget us at this crucial time and I love baseball more now because of this."
I need to truly compliment all of the coaches from the Parkland baseball organization for understanding the minds of these kids at a horrible time like this. I hope that they understand that with their actions in wanting to give these kids this great day after such a tragedy, they may have saved a life (lives) in the long run.
Howard Grosswirth, what can I say? I know that you get it because of the many deep talks we have had about our own kids.
New York Yankees, you get it, as you have since the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Ray Negron can be heard Saturday's from 12-2 p.m. on Impact ESPN 1050AM.
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.
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