Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Haley’s Message to C.S.55 .. YOU TOO ARE SOMEBODY!

I have been visiting schools around New York since I was 18 years old.

At that time I was a Yankee batboy and my Boss George Steinbrenner and my mother Jenny thought that it was a good idea and a perfect way of giving back. My mother was working as a teachers aide at a public school in Queens so that was a perfect way to start.

Through the years I would take many players to many schools around the city.

I was always proud at the fact that I would take Omar Minaya and Dave Valle to visit schools before they would become stars in the world of baseball and today both work for the Yankees.

My very favorite school to visit has always been P. S. 55 in the Bronx. Today it is known as C. S. 55 I first payed a surprise visit 20 years ago when the school’s rookie principal Louis Torres was someone that I had met during different city functions and he had consistently asked me to please visit his school and bring one of my celebrity friends with me because his students are never shown the love. He said that his children never felt special, they think that they may never amount to anything.

I told this story to Mr. Steinbrenner and I said to him, does that remind you of someone???

He just stared in my eyes for a moment and the next thing you know without hesitation or warning we were on our way to St. Paul’s place in the Bronx.

The look in young principal Torres’s face was priceless. I had always seen Mr. Steinbrenner as being a man that on many occasions could be very impatient but not on this day.

He was wonderful with a very nervous Principal Torres and extremely loving with the predominantly Hispanic and black kids in the school. The kids didn’t really know who George Steinbrenner was but understood that he was a very special person. I must add that he put all the focus on the children.

This was not the first school that the Boss had visited but it was in my opinion the most impactful. On our drive back to the stadium I said Wow I never saw you like that… he looked at me and said, You didn’t see anything!!! This was a standard line whenever he did something nice I laughed on the inside because this was just the Boss being the Boss. To me, he was just an extremely modest and good man.

From that point on I have been able to take dozens of Yankees and celebrities to this school.

For me, it has been wonderful to have members of the Steinbrenner family visit the school.

Hank Steinbrenner paid a visit at one point and literally spent the whole day there. To see him have lunch with the kids and sing songs with the kids was a thing of beauty.

Several years later George Michael Steinbrenner visited the school and talked about his career in the car racing business. This visit impacted the kids so much that recently a student from the school actually won a junior car racing championship.

Last week the Boss’s granddaughter Haley Swindal, the Broadway actress who has appeared on many shows on Broadway including Chicago visited C. S. 55. She was the honorary principal for the day.

The first thing Principal Torres did was show Haley a letter from her grandfather Mr Steinbrenner that he sent the students of the school that hangs on the wall for all to see. Last year rookie sensation Anthony Volpe requested a photo of him standing next to the letter. That has always been a tradition.

Haley proceeded to make the morning announcements and took her role seriously. She then visited the different classrooms with Yankees executive vice president of community relations Brian Smith. Just like the other Steinbrenner’s and Yankees before her she showed the kids her love. The kids accepted her because she was real. The most important thing was that she made them understand that They Too Are Somebody!

This was a very important message that was given to me by her grandfather in 1973 when I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.
I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Hey! Are you enjoying NYCTastemakers? Make sure to join our mailing list for NYCTM and never miss the chance to read all of our articles!