Three Latino New York Yankees players, Michael Pineda, Jose Pirela and Esmil Rogers, were honored at a luncheon held at Nueva España Restaurant on 207th Street, east of Broadway on Tuesday afternoon. The event took place several hours before the team faced the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. The young, Latino men, all in their twenties, were recognized for the effort and work that they do that is reflected in their success on the field.
The master of ceremonies was esteemed broadcaster Felix deJesus. He was ably aided by Sadiel Lebron and Nestor Rosario, his colleagues on the radio shows “El Mundo de las Grandes Ligas” and “Resumen Final”, which are heard on ESPN Deportes, 1050 AM.
DeJesus introduced representatives of the sponsors of the event, Ron Barceló, Inca Cola, Merengue Car and Limousine Service and Café la Llave as well as the reporters who were present to cover the fine event. The courteousness deJesus exhibited at the start of the event set the standard of warmth that is always present throughout every activity he presents.
The three players, despite it being a game day, did not rush from the restaurant after eating. They remained to answer questions, pose for photos and sign autographs. They spoke with those present with great humor and friendliness. Each of the three expressed their gratitude in words similar to each other. They stated their thanks for the honor of being recognized, for the gifts they received and for being able to play in the Bronx, where so many of their countrymen reside.
In addition to the tribute to the Yankees players, two of the guests imparted important words at the gathering. Ray Negron, an advisor to the late George Steinbrenner and a current community affairs consultant with the team spoke of the importance of the players to the community and community’s importance to the organization. Negron, who first worked with the organization as a batboy in the 1970’s, has in recent years worked hard to benefit the youth of the community by visiting schools, hospitals and parks with Yankees players.
The speaker Negron introduced was Kenneth A. Smaltz, Jr. Smalz spoke of his father who had three distinguished careers as a U. S. Marine, a fireman and a postal worker before being struck by Alzheimer’s disease. He talked of his own experiences in caring for his beloved father, which gave him an understanding of what happens in so many other families. To alleviate the stress on caregivers as well as victims of the disease, Smaltz started a foundation in his father’s name. For further information see the website, www.kassrfoundation.org.
Not only was the meeting interesting and uplifting, the food at Nueva España was delicious and well worth a visit to experience.