By Ray Negron, Contributing Writer
The GG Men were spectacular both on and off the field. The men that I am referring to are Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela. These two men were my go to guys all season.
Throughout my career with the Yankees I have always had my “go to guys.” These are the players that I knew if I asked them to go to a school, a hospital or a youth program, they would go.
In the 70’s I first went to a hospital with Thurman Munson and the thing that got me about that initial visit was the intensity and patience and love that Thurman gave to one particular little girl. That same day on the drive back to the park, I noticed that Thurman’s eyes were very red. I remember that all he said on the ride back to the stadium was.“Damn it’s just not fair.”
On another occasion, I visited a hospital with Reggie Jackson. We went to visit a little boy that had been burned throughout ninety percent of his body. I know that this was very hard for Reggie but I will never forget that he told the little boy that he loved him. It was a beautiful moment.
During his first two seasons, Derek Jeter and I were inseparable. He would come over to my home and have dinner with my four kids. If I went to a function, Jeter was there. He was wonderful with kids. Once he started his foundation ( Turn 2 ) he started to do his own thing. It was fine with me because I knew that he was going to reach hundreds of kids. He truly has done that and more.
One of my next “go to guys” was Robinson Cano. This guy was great. He went to more hospitals and schools with me than just about anyone else in that era. One time, I had five Yankees with me at Hackensack University Medical Center, including Cano. Somehow we “lost” Cano while we were going from room to room. My friend, Dave Jurist,strongly affiliated with the hospital, thought Cano had left. I decided to go back and see if I could find him. I finally found him in a room with a little kid who was suffering from brain cancer. They were talking like they were longtime friends. It was truly a wonderful moment to witness. Cano brought the little boy to Yankee Stadium that summer and Cano made him feel special. Unfortunately, the little boy died about a year later. The Hospital named a wing after Robinson Cano. To this day, you can go to Hackensack University Medical Center and visit the Robinson Cano Children’s Wing. I wrote my first book, The Boy of Steel, because of that incident with Cano. It was my first N. Y. Times best seller.
There are so many stories. Ching Ming Wang was truly phenomenal. He didn’t care if he was pitching that day or not. He was insistent that we had to see the kids. I actually got in trouble with the front office for taking him out on a day that he was pitching which is a “no no.”
Alex Rodriguez was just fantastic, I have so many Alex stories. The best was when I took Alex across the street from the park to play stick ball with the neighborhood kids. Those kids are men now yet they still talk about that time.
This season, Gleyber Torres met a young boy in spring training and got along with him so well that when the kid asked for a home run Gleyber told him. “Okay” and on the first pitch actually hit a homer. Zack Scwartz was the little boy and unfortunately we lost Zack last month. Zack’s dad, Jeff, called me to let Gleyber know that he was forever grateful that Gleyber would give his son his greatest day. The sadness that I felt from Gleyber’s voice brought tears to my eyes.
I must say that I was so proud of Gleyber because at the age of twenty two, he was more man than those twice his age and show a big heart. On another occasion, to see him hug a little boy who didn’t have arms was unreal.
Then there is Gio. What a gentleman this guy is. I think he went to more visits with me than anybody else. He helped a guy suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease). He danced and sang with kids at the poorest elementary school in New York (CS 55) He would talk and mentor the kid’s right there at the old Yankee Stadium. However, the thing that really hit me was when they were about to operate on this little boy they had Gio “FaceTime” the little boy in order to help him deal with his fear. I am very happy to say that it worked and the little boy is doing great and we hope to have him at Yankee Stadium next season.
George Steinbrenner, who was truly the most benevolent man that I have ever known once said to me, “When you give you get.” I never really understood what he meant until this season. Look at all that Gleyber and Gio have done this season without any fanfare–everything we did was without media notification. They both had incredible seasons. A second basemen, Gleyber hit 38 Homers and 90 RBI’s. Gio was in triple A at the beginning of the season and he ended up hitting 314 with 21 Homer’s. Gio also played the best third base since Graig Nettles. I love talking to these two guys because they are just sweet kids. They understand how blessed they are and they know that it’s just not about taking it’s also about giving. Gio actually thanks me for taking him to visit some of these unfortunate kids but feels that he gets just as much from them as they get from him. In talking to Gleyber today, the last thing he would say was that he was dedicating his performance in these playoffs to Zach and to all the kids that touched him this season.
Babe Ruth, who started this tradition during the era of the roaring 20”s, would be so proud of what the Yankees have accomplished off the field throughout the years.
I must add that now that the playoffs are here I do not take the players out because the Boss would want the players to just be concentrating on the business at hand of winning a Championship.
I believe that these players don’t even realize that they are actually helping to mold and in some cases, saving lives.