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 always had go to guys. These are players that I knew that if I asked them to go to a school or a hospital or a youth program they would go.
In the 70s, I would first go to a hospital with Thurman Munson and the thing that got me about that initial visit was the intensity and patience and love that he would give to one particular little girl. That day on the drive back to the park I noticed that Thurman’s eyes were very red. I remember him saying 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 90 % 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. When Jeter started his foundation (Turn 2) he did his own thing. That was fine with me because I knew that he was going to reach out to hundreds of kids. Jeter has truly 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 in that era. One time I had five Yankees with me at Hackensack Medical Center including Cano. Somehow we lost Cano while we were going from room to room. My friend Dave Jurist 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 long time friends. It was truly a wonderful moment to witness. Cano would bring 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 actually named a wing after Robinson Cano. To this day you can go to Hackensack Medical Center and visit the Robinson Cano Children’s Wing. I would actually write my first book because of that incident with Cano. The Book was called “The Boy of Steel.” 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 a pitcher 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 would take Alex across the street from the park and play stick ball with neighborhood kids. Those kids are men now yet they still talk about that.
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 ok and on the first pitch he actually hit a homer. Zack Schwartz 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 22 he was more man than those twice his age and show a big heart. To see him put his arm around 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 then anybody. He helped a guy suffering from A. L. S. (Lou Gehrig Disease). He danced and sang with kids at the poorest elementary school in New York (C. S. 55) He would talk and mentor the kids 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 with him in order for the boy to 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 that when you give, you get. I never really understood what he meant until this season. Look at all that Gleyber and Gio did this season without any fanfare because everything we did was without media notification. Yet they both had just incredible seasons. As a second baseman, Gleyber hit 38 home runs and he drove in 90 runs. Gio was in triple A at the beginning of the season and this man ended up hitting 314 with 21 homers. He 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 all the kids that he touched this season. 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 and that is winning the Championship.
I do believe that these players don’t even realize that they are actually helping to mold young people, and in some cases, saving lives.