TAMPA – June 14, 2017 was a magical day for Ricky Negron. That was the day he was drafted in the 34th round by the Atlanta Braves. He was sent a contract on June 24th. He read every word signed it and sent it back. He waited for this day since he was a little boy and like every kid his age idolized Derek Jeter.
The difference between Ricky and most kids was that he was always around the game. His dad, Ray Negron, worked for George Steinbrenner so Ricky was always there.
The dream to play professionally came early and never left. He loved the Yankees but loved baseball more. He always respected the work ethic of what a professional must put into the game. He used to love to watch Don Mattingly work with hitters in the batting cage. He especially respected how much Alex Rodriguez put into his preparation for that matter he would say the same thing about Jeter. He picked up early how Jeter would go to the batting cage 15 minutes before game time to get his muscle memory right where it belonged.
So many of these things that he picked up he took with him to school. He never forgot how many of the players were very giving of themselves in trying to teach him. His dad at one time also worked for the Indians and players like Roberto Alomar were very generous with their time also.
Negron graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in criminal justice. He has an older brother, Jon-Erik, who is a very respected police officer in New York and another brother, Joey, who is the New York light heavyweight champion in the Golden Gloves. Ricky understands how difficult being a baseball player can be. He took the policeman’s exam in New York and score a 95 which is considered a big grade. He now will wait about a year before he would be called to the police academy. He hopes the Braves will soon assign him to a short season team. He has been waiting two weeks since he signed his contract but says he will be patient because playing pro ball is a privilege.
He has been working out twice a day in St. Petersburg and in Tampa at the Yankees Facility. I asked Ricky why not the Yankees? His response was, “maybe someday.”
Besides working out Negron helps many of the community kids with baseball and also talks to many about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure. Throughout the years, he has learned a lot about the subject from sports intervention counselor Ron Dock, considered by many as the best in the field.
South St Petersburg which is predominantly African-American and an area where Negron befriended many of the kids and encouraged them that they too can also play baseball. Ricky has become a hero to many of these kids. While he waits for an assignment from the Braves he enjoys playing simulated games daily with these talented group of players.
When I asked his dad, Ray, about his feelings in the delay of Ricky beginning his career, all he would only say is “hopefully soon.” He is anxious to get his opportunity. He has truly earned this chance. While watching practice Ray received a call from Reggie Jackson asking the same question that everybody that has seen Ricky grow up wants to know.
When does he start? Ray can only say the same thing, “hopefully soon.”
The one thing everyone seems to agree with is that Ricky Negron is a wonderful person, who has truly earned this chance. Just ask the scout for the Braves that has seen him the longest, Tom “T-Bone” Giordano who said, “Great kid. Great makeup. I don’t know how much he will hit but he will hit some home runs.”
Hopefully that will come soon.