I recently saw Arlene Howard, the wife of the greatest Black American Yankee, Elston Howard. She greeted me by saying, "Hello Batboy."
Her daughter, Cheryl, said to her mom, "You remember Ray?"
Arlene responded by saying, "Yes but to me he will always be the Batboy."
I took that as a wonderful compliment. It reminded me of a beautiful time in my life when I learned how much the Yankees loved children.
The first day I met Elston Howard he treated me like family.
I saw how he was always "all business" when it came to doing his coaching duties but when kids where around he always found time for them, joking around.
Howard always felt that it was important to show the kids that you cared.
I also remember him saying that a small moment like that could make a difference in a kid's life. The coach who had the locker next to Elston was . . . Yogi Berra.
Yogi was a very sweet man, and actually looked like a cartoon character.
The rumor was that they named the animated cartoon series "Yogi Bear" after the man himself. This writer doesn't know if that's true; however it makes all the sense in the world.
How Yogi was with children was also a thing of beauty to watch.
He was, as they say, "a natural."
Children, in turn, genuinely responded to him in kind.
It's really no surprising that Yogi has a youth learning center, named after him, in Montclair, New Jersey. The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center
The work done there with kids has been phenomenal.
Turning to Billy Martin.
He had a reputation for getting into fistfights and sometimes being a wild and crazy guy.
Martin did not take any crap from anyone.
However, when it came to children he was a "sucker," and I'm saying that in a very complimentary way.
Billy Martin loved kids.
There was nothing that he wouldn't do for any child.
Billy was the first Yankee manager who allowed me to bring kids onto the field to watch batting practice.
This writer once said to him, that he was a hero to Bronx kids.
Billy replied that he would rather think of himself as a mentor, adding, "I want them to know the goodness of my heart, not what they sometimes see on the television set."
That was simply beautiful and something to always remember about him, because he meant it. There were moments when Martin dove into his into pocket to take money out, for those children he thought needed it.
Thurman Munson was another who taught me much about the importance of being there for kids.
On several occasions Thurman and I would go to a hospital or kids event.
I actually wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it because Thurman did not want to upstage the children.
Something which was customary for us was going to the hamburger place across the street from the Yankee Stadium and buying food for those neighborhood kids.
Thurman never judged a book by its cover, regardless of age.
Even Reggie "Mr. October" Jackson, had a beautiful side to him when it came to kids.
One time we were driving to Yankee Stadium for that evening’s game.
Enroute, he stopped at a hospital.
Someone had called Reggie to let him know that a child had been in a fire and his body was 80% burned.
When we got to the hospital he was taken to the little boy's bed.
Even though the child couldn't even speak, his eyes told the story.
The boy shed tears of joy.
Reggie said all the right things and promised to bring him to the stadium when the little boy got better. Mr. October would later make good on his promise!
Before we left Reggie told the little boy that he loved him.
That was truly a wonderful moment because I knew that Reggie meant it.
Bobby Murcer, Catfish Hunter, Bucky Dent, and Mickey Rivers were also all true mentors to me when it came to showing love to kids.
George Steinbrenner was incredible in many ways.
He actually visited a couple of schools in the Bronx, including P. S. 55, where to this day they hang a letter of encouragement from the "Boss" to the kids.
Today, I visit as many schools and hospitals as possible because the one thing this writer learned from heroes and mentors, is that by showing the kids your heart and soul at an early age you will help make the world a far better place.
The other thing I learned is that you don’t have to be a baseball player or movie star to be an inspiration to children. You can also be a firefighter, a police officer or just a good person trying to help make this world a better place.
We, as adults, need to help our children become good, responsible people so that when we leave this world it’s better than when we first arrived here.
Oh and by the way, let’s not forget that our future baseball fans etc. are our the children of today.
Last week I visited a school in Long Island, New York with my son: Police Officer Jon-Erik Negron.
The love they showed Jon-Erik was more than equal to the love that he showed to them.
May we all continue to consistently do what we can to make our children's lives better, as well as the lives of all humankind.
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. Mr. Negron is an American film producer, a best-selling author, and philanthropist. His memoir is entitled, "Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers." Read Ray Negron's Reports — More Here.
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