By Bari Auerbach
Hitting it out of the park, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at Memorial hosted an Aventura Marketing Council/Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting featuring Ray Negron, author of “Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers,“ now being developed into a Broadway musical and television documentary.
Negron, a columnist and host of “Impact” on ESPN radio, has also written a series of best-selling children’s books, inspiring celebrities to lend their voices to the animated film “Henry & Me” about a young boy’s magical journey as he battles illness.
The Island Club at Williams Island was the premier venue for the event where all-star business and community leaders were welcomed by AMC Chair Gary Pyott of FirstService Residential. Chantal Leconte, CEO of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, part of Memorial Healthcare, spoke passionately about the medical teams that save children’s lives day after day. Leconte also spoke with great pride about the hospital’s fundraiser, the 8th annual Tour de Broward, featuring over 6,000 people who would run, walk and bike, to be held that weekend. Funds are raised each year to expand facilities and enhance programs and services for families that spend extended time dealing with a child’s health issues.
For helping to arrange Negron’s appearance, appreciation was expressed to Karen Dresbach, CEO of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of South Florida; and Rick Sostre, producer of “161st Street: A New York Fable”, the Broadway musical that will tell Negron’s real-life story. Nine-time Grammy-winner and legendary singer-songwriter Jose Feliciano will composed the score.
Negron’s “Yankee Miracles” highlights the power of baseball to transform lives. In 1973, the incredible metamorphosis of a former “teenage street punk” took place when at 17 years old, Negron was caught spraying graffiti on the walls of Yankee Stadium by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Negron recounted the story of how Steinbrenner looked past his transgression and made him a bat boy. Ultimately, Negron became a successful sports executive, befriending many baseball greats including Joe DiMaggio, Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Yogi, Munson, Mantle, A-Rod and Jeter.
“I’m addicted to baseball, I love the game,” Negron said, emphasizing, “All George Steinbrenner ever did was make sure I was okay and doing the right thing. He didn’t overly- baby me because he wanted me to grow and do something with my life.”
Negron recalled how he was astounded when Steinbrenner invited him to dinner with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. “They told me when performing in Vegas, Sammy couldn’t walk in the front door. Sinatra said, ‘You want me here..... Sammy walks in with me.’ Sammy cried that day because he knew Sinatra understood that we are all the same and there’s no reason why we can’t all love each other.”
Sharing stories about his Hispanic heritage and his heroes, Negron reminisced about hobnobbing with Fankie Valli, José Feliciano and James Brown; meeting John Lennon with Reggie Jackson; and overhearing Joe DiMaggio tell Billy Martin, “’We must always watch out for and help the kids.’ In turn, I always felt that I had to go to the players and remind them to give back. I thank god for my kids being healthy because that’s the most important thing in the world.”
Completely dedicated to children and their family members, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital at Memorial is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Combining advanced technology and the expertise of the largest group of pediatric specialists in the region, the freestanding, full-service hospital provides a comprehensive scope of healthcare services; performs pediatric cardiac transplants; and will soon be performing pediatric kidney transplants. An expansion plan encompasses the addition of four floors to enhance an environment solely dedicated to providing children with quality services and the most compassionate care.
For more information, visit Jdch.com or phone: 954- 265-5324