Coppola: Hank’s Yanks and The Steinbrenner Mission

Monday in the Bronx at the Trump Golf Links overlooking the East River and Whitestone Bridge, the 3rd annual golf outing to benefit the Hank’s Yanks program took place. It was a virtual who’s who of celebrities and equally generous people, who graciously donated both their time and money to keep this amazing organization funded.

According to Ray Negron, who co- founded this youth program with the late Herman Hernandez in 2010, hundreds of young boys will benefit from this fund raiser and get to play baseball in leagues and tournaments throughout the country. Ray announced that four more teams from the TM Baseball Training Academy in the Bronx along with as many as two hundred additional kids, will now benefit from the Hank’s Yanks program.

Not enough can be said for these former and present big league ballplayers, celebrities and business people who donate their time and money to be a part of this program and one that keeps the hopes and dreams alive for so many young kids.

Hall of Fame great Reggie Jackson was honored with the George M. Steinbrenner Boss Award, while former teammate Mickey Rivers received the pride of Hank’s Yanks Award. Wallace Matthews received the Dick Young Award for excellence in sports journalism. The draw of these celebrities who received awards, as well as those who golfed with people who paid for that privilege, was the reason for the success of this event.

Negron emotionally thanked Hank Steinbrenner, who he first came to for support of this idea. It was to give kids who would otherwise never have a chance to play baseball, a safe environment to play the greatest game ever invented by giving them the opportunity to be on a baseball field with real uniforms and experiencing something that is both fun and exciting.

It provides them with a goal oriented activity and a positive way out of the streets of crime and despair.

With the risk of sounding like a Dinosaur, It wasn’t like this when I was a kid. I grew up with the baby boomer generation after WWII. Little League baseball was the only place to play. But it was inexpensive, people all volunteered, umpires were not paid and nobody sued if a kid got hurt.

Today it cost a lot of money to play youth baseball. I would not of been given the chance to play today, as my family would have found it difficult to come up with the money.

It always amazes me how generous people are when it comes to the youth of this country. For most of these kids who participate in programs funded by Hank’s Yanks and others around the country, it will be the highlight of their baseball career. Some will use the baseball skills they learn here to get into college.

That education will give them opportunities to get a better job. Hopefully some will returning as successful business people, who will donate their money for the next generation of youngsters. To see the big smiles on the faces of theses kids as they get their first uniform, glove and spikes, will give you more goosebumps than you can imagine.

It’s giving kids a chance to dream of being a big league ballplayer, where they will take the mound or set-up in the batters box on dusty fields somewhere, and imagine they are in Yankee Stadium, Citi Field or Fenway Park.

In their heads they will hear their name announced and the crowd cheer. Giving kids the opportunity to feel that is priceless. The key word here is “Giving.” That is something Ray Negron learned from the Boss. Something he works at tirelessly everyday.

Mr Steinbrenner is smiling down on all these kids today as well as the young man he gave so many opportunities to in their relationship, challenging him to find ways to “Give.”

William Coppola has over 38 years of experience in the game of baseball as a player, umpire and advanced scout.

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