Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Like Munson, Murcer and Jeter, Gio is a Hero

My love for the Yankees goes as deep as my love for my Hispanic heritage.

The fact that I started working for the Yankees 48 years ago and I was surrounded by Yankee heroes named Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer and Graig Nettles and Roy White and being lead by Billy Martin made me understand what true pride was all about.

Working for a man named George Steinbrenner made me understand the importance of my heritage because during my period of insecurity he always told me that I was somebody and must be a positive example to my Hispanic people.

An incredible thing that I also got to understand was how the other teams always knew what it meant to play the Yankees, even when we weren’t great.

When Gio Urshela came to the Yankees three years ago, it was that of a utility player that was supposed to be positioned in Scranton-Wilkes Barre and brought into New York when needed.

I was first told about Gio Urshela from the greatest second baseman of all-time and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar. He said that if Gio was given an opportunity to help the Yanks he would not disappoint, he has not.

He is coming off of three solid major league seasons and off the field he has quietly been a wonderful example to not just the Latin community, but to all the communities that I have asked him to help me with.

Yesterday the Yankees played one of the most important games in years. It literally became a playoff-type game. Truly a must-win.

There was no score going into the sixth inning so every out became an urgent out and you didn’t have to be a fortune teller to see that it was going to be a very low-scoring game.

With two outs the hitter hit a pop-up near the Rays dugout. Not showing any fear for his body, Urshela raced towards the dugout, extended his arm, caught the ball, and went headfirst into the dugout.

Gio took forever to get up and you could tell that the players were nervous. After a while, Gio got up and with the help of some of his teammates, limped back to the Yankees dugout.

What was incredible about the whole situation was that when the seventh inning started Gio was back at shortstop.

The play was very reminiscent of the Derek Jeter play when he dove into the stands.

As Urshela was walking in pain, I had tears in my eyes because I thought of every time that I saw Thurman play in pain and he was not going to let Billy take him out of the game. I thought of the time Nettles played with a broken finger but was not going to be taken out. I thought of Murcer and how he use to say that if Mickey Mantle could play with all the injuries he had then unless he was dead he was going to play. I thought of the quiet Yankee Roy White and how he would play almost every game every year and would never go into the trainer’s room even though he had nagging injuries here and there.

I’m so very proud of the Yankee fans for their appreciation of Gio Urshela’s incredible efforts.
This morning I spoke to Gio while he was on his way to get some treatment at Fenway Park. I asked him how he felt and he said that there were some pain in different parts of his body but nothing was going to keep him from playing in tomorrow’s big game.

I have been proud of this young man from day one when I saw him give of himself to the poor kids in the Bronx. I’m proud of his humbleness as a baseball player and the fact that he understands that being a Yankee is totally different than playing for any other team. I must add that I’m proud of the Yankee fans that cheered and really appreciated what Gio did yesterday. It was very nice to see how many fans were genuinely concerned about Gio’s well-being.

I think that if Thurman Munson & Bobby Murcer knew Gio, they would be proud of him to.

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