My love for the Yankees goes as deep as my love for my Hispanic heritage.
The fact that I started working for the Yankees 48 years ago -- and that I was surrounded by Yankee heroes named Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Graig Nettles and Roy White and being lead by Billy Martin -- made me understand what true pride was all about.
Working for a man named George Steinbrenner made me understand the importance of my heritage because, during my period of insecurity, he always told me that I was somebody and must be a positive example to my Hispanic people.
An incredible thing that I also got to understand was how the other teams always knew what it meant to play the Yankees, even when we weren’t great.
When Gio Urshela came to the Yankees three years ago, it was that of a utility player who was supposed to be positioned in Scranton-Wilkes Barre and brought into New York when needed.
I was first told about Gio Urshela from the greatest second baseman of all time and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. He said that if Gio was given an opportunity to help the Yanks he would not disappoint, and he has not.
Urshela is coming off of three solid major league seasons, and off the field he has quietly been a wonderful example to not just the Latin community, but to all of the communities that I have asked him to help me with.
Recently, the Yankees played one of the most important games in years. It literally became a playoff type game; truly a must win.
There was no score going into the sixth inning so every out became an urgent one. You didn’t have to be a fortune teller to see that it was going to be a very low-scoring game.
With two outs, the hitter hit a pop-up near the Rays dugout. Not showing any fear for his body, Urshela raced toward the dugout, extended his arm, caught the ball and went head first into the dugout.
Gio took forever to get up and you could tell that the players were nervous. After a while, Gio got up and with the help of some of his teammates, limped back to the Yankees dugout.
What was incredible about the whole situation was that when the seventh inning started Gio was right back at shortstop.
The play was reminiscent of the Derek Jeter play when Derek dove into the stands in 2004 against the Boston Red Sox.
As Urshela was walking in pain, I had tears in my eyes because I thought of every time that I saw Thurman Munson play in pain and was not going to let Billy take him out of the game.
I thought of the time Nettles played with a broken finger but was not going to be taken out. I thought of Murcer and how he used to say that if Mickey Mantle could play with all of the injuries he had, then unless he was dead he was going to play.
I thought of the quiet Yankee Roy White and how he would play almost every game each year and would never go into the trainers room — even though he had nagging injuries here and there.
I’m so very proud of the Yankee fans for their appreciation of Gio Urshela’s incredible efforts.
Tuesday morning, I spoke to Gio while he was on his way to get some treatment at Fenway Park. I asked him how he felt and he said that there was some pain in different parts of his body but nothing was going to keep him from playing in Tuesday's big game.
I have been proud of this young man from day one when I saw him give of himself to the poor kids in the Bronx. I’m proud of his humbleness as a baseball player and the fact that he understands that being a Yankee is totally different than playing for any other team.
I must add that I’m im proud of the Yankee fans who cheered and really appreciated what Gio did Sunday. It was nice to see how many fans were genuinely concerned about Gio’s well-being.
I think that if Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer knew Gio, they would be proud of him, too.
On Tuesday, the Yankees were beaten by the Red Sox 6-2 in a game that seemed to be over when their ace pitcher, Gerrit Cole, was taken out of the game in the third inning. This crazy season is finally over. I’m sure that certain moves in the organization will be made in order to bring this sports juggernaut back to prominence.
The one thing that I feel I can predict is that the "Diamond in the Rough" known as Gio Urshela will be back next year to help the Yankees get to where they belong -- the top of the American League.
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." Read Ray Negron's Reports — More Here.
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