Hank Steinbrenner may have been remembered for the larger than life persona he brought to the Yankees for his one season as managing general partner in 2007-2008.
Yet, his legacy in baseball should be defined more for his involvement with Hank’s Yanks, which brought baseball to inner city kids in the Tri-State area.
The project was the brainchild of Yankee advisor Ray Negron, who went to George Steinbrenner at the time and he suggested Hank start the charity.
“Ray Negron started it years ago with one team,” said Hank Steinbrenner to NY Sports Day in 2016. ” Now we are up to many teams. It was for kids in the area with different age groups for little league to present them in an opportunity, especially in areas that don’t have a lot of little league action. It helped develop players, but mostly for fun.
“Eventually when they get older, obviously they are not all going to play major league baseball, but it’s to help with college and give advice on colleges. We have kids that we helped get into college and we have had players drafted. It’s just for the kids, real youngster or high school age. It gives them an outlet to be associated with the Yankees. It was Ray’s idea to be associated with the youth.”
Over the years, a number of players have gotten drafted from Hank’s Yanks teams and in 2018 left-handed pitcher Williams Jerez was the first member of a Hank’s Yanks team to reach the majors when he was brought up by the Los Angeles Angels.
Jerez was drafted in the second round by the Boston Red Sox in 2011 and was one of the first Hank’s Yanks players to be drafted. After being traded to the Angels, he got his shot.
“They gave me more opportunities to apply my tools on and off the field,” Jerez, who is now with the Pirates, said to NJ.com yesterday. “They helped me learn more about who I am.”
Hank’s Yanks still is working on its mission, mainly in Connecticut, but has teams in the Bronx and Westchester. It’s funded by an annual celebrity golf outing with a number of current and former major leaguers. Back in 2016, it raised over $60,000 for the cause when it was played at Trump Links in the Bronx.
Now, the tournament is held up in Connecticut with this year’s being held on August 24th at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield. Last year, I had the pleasure of playing in the tournament with former Yankee and Met Orlando Hernandez.
Negron, who is also on staff for NY Sports Day, spoke at last year’s tournament and the stirred the audience with his speech about keeping kids off the streets not only through sports, but also with love, what he called “the most important word in the world.”
But helping kids is Negron’s passion and it was Hank Steinbrenner’s as well. Hopefully everything will get back to normal soon and baseball will come back in force.
Hank’s Yanks will be there as well helping kids pursue their dreams.
It’s what Hank Steinbrenner would have wanted.