This winter was a very normal winter for me. I visited a lot of schools and hospitals trying to cheer up as many kids lives as possible. It’s the Yankee way. It was always the Boss’s way. (George Steinbrenner, not Bruce).
At one point during Christmas time, my great friend and philanthropist John Theisen and the wonderful Yankee second basemen, Gleyber Torres, got a bunch of toys and surprised New York City shelter kids who usually would not have had a very Merry Christmas.
While I was with those kids, I received a phone call from the former Yankee bullpen catcher and the head coach of Adelphi University, Dom Scala.
Mr. Scala wanted to tell me about a little boy with stage four brain cancer.
He said that he had taken a very special interest in the young man and was hoping that I could possibly help get some players to visit or to call him.
I asked Dom where the boy lived, and Dom said, "South Dakota."
I said, "Holy cow that’s going to be a tall order." (I was hoping that he was going to be in New York or New Jersey where I've taken athletes and people from the arts to visit kids.) I told Dom that this might be a "tough one" and Dom said-with his Brooklyn Italian accent, "Just see what you can do."
It was like Robert De Niro in the movie "Good Fellahs" saying "just get it done."
That night I was having a conversation with Doc Gooden and I mentioned the situation with the little boy with cancer and how I couldn’t find someone to visit him.
Doc asked me what was his name and I told him it was Derek Gerlach and that he was in South Dakota. All of a sudden Doc started to laugh and said your troubles are over, I’m going to South Dakota this week on business and I will visit Derek while I’m there.
Now this all sounds unreal but it really happened and Doc did visit Derek and spent a whole evening watching football with Derek and his family. This didn’t surprise me because if you really know Doc Gooden then you know that he can be the greatest guy in the world.
For one day Dr. K helped Derek forget about his cancer.
A week passed phone rang and it was my Brooklyn friend again, Dom Scala.
In his best Brooklyn accent he said, "How you doing?"
He wasted no time.
He said that he had the great former Yankee Willie Randolph call Derek but it would be great if we could get a present day Yankee to call him because he still wasn’t feeling well and needed to be cheered up.
Please do this for me. Then he hung up.
Since I was doing some Christmas things with Gleyber Torres and he speaks fluent English I thought he would be perfect to speak with Derek, and he was.
They had a great conversation and it was established that Derek was also a shortstop and second baseman. They had a couple of nice laughs talking and Gleyber felt great about his good deed and Derek felt great about his two new friends in Doc and Gleyber.
Now this is where the story gets good.
During spring training I would always help the wonderful John Szponar with kids from different organizations. One of these organizations was the Make a Wish Foundation. Sadly, John passed away this past winter.
Hal Steinbrenner’s assistant, Jenette Cruz, asked me if I could help her with a Make a Wish kid that was coming in from South Dakota. I naturally said yes because like John Szponar, we live for these wonderful moments where we can help these kids.
Well the day came and wouldn’t you know that the Kid was Derek!
I met his parents and they were great. Derek’s dad, Shane, was a giant Yankee fan.
He wanted to name his son Thurman but instead they named him after a more present day Yankee, Derek Jeter. Jenette was great because she has been doing things like this for years and always puts the kid’s happiness first. I told her that most of the players would be at the back field, and asked if it would be ok if I took Derek there and she said to do what I had to do.
So I did and Derek had a wonderful time. The epic moment was when we sat in the dugout at the back practice field and all of a sudden Gleyber Torres walked in. It was as if it were staged. Gleyber walked over and said, "Hi I’m Gleyber Torres."
In Spanish, I told Gleyber that this was Derek, the kid that he had called over the winter. Gleyber was shocked but played it cool. They talked to each other like they were best friends. It was a beautiful moment and when they were finished, Gleyber said good bye and walked away
Derek had tears in his eyes saying, "I can’t believe that Gleyber talked to me like I was his friend."
All I could do was put my arm around him and thank God because he (God) does work in mysterious ways. I also believe that God loves to work through the Yankees.
As the Boss always said, "We are Yankees, it’s what we do."
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.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.