Ray Negron's Playball Weekly Blog

Omar Minaya, The timing is right… he’s a Yankee!

As a young kid, I played baseball for an organization in 1972 called the Flushing Tigers. It was an elite baseball program for some of the best players in the New York area.

After I fooled the scouts and ended up getting drafted in the 2nd round in the 1975 baseball draft I signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After that season the Flushing Tigers were holding their annual awards dinner.

At 19 I was the keynote speaker because the head of the organization wanted to show the players that anything was possible and it could happen to them.

In the audience, I noticed that two players really stood out. They were Dave Valle a 16-year-old catcher and 16-year-old outfielder Omar Minaya. I actually spoke more about being a Yankee batboy than I did about being a player. Let’s face it, I was a horrible pro player however as a batboy I could sure pick up a mean bat!

Naturally, after the event, all the players wanted to know about what it was like to play pro ball and what was it like to hang with the Yankees.

I ended up staying in touch with Dave and Omar and could not of been happier for them when they got drafted.

I remember bringing Omar and Dave to Reggie Jackson’s apartment on 5th Ave to show them how baseball’s biggest star lived and with hard work it could happen to them.

I don’t know if they were listening because all they were interested in was what was in the refrigerator and getting a free pair of Puma sneakers and Murjani Jeans, two companies that Reggie endorsed so he had extras that he would give out to his friends.

Dave Valle would go on to a very nice baseball career with the Seattle Mariners. Omar was drafted by the Oakland A’s then would go on to the Seattle Mariners. From there he would go play professionally in Italy. When he came back from Italy he was speaking fluent Italian.

At that time during the winter I was chasing my second dream which was that of being an actor. When I landed one of my first films (The Cotton Club ) it was being shot at the Kaufman Astoria Studios. It was a few subway stops from Omar’s apartment in Corona. Omar and his sister Sixta invited me to stay with them for a couple of months during the making of the film. It was a small apartment and I slept on the floor. With all the blankets I had that floor felt like a Sealy perfect sleeper. Some mornings before going to the studio and Omar going to work at Bloomingdales we use to scrape up enough money to go to the corner diner. I would order Ham and Eggs special and Omar would order two breakfast specials. That boy could eat.

The following spring I was doing a commercial for Cannon Camera that starred Willie Randolph. They needed a catcher so I got Omar to play the role, the kid was a natural. That also started a long friendship with Willie Randolph and Omar.

Who could of imagined that this Bloomingdale employee would someday be hiring Willie to be New York’s first black manager.

The first time I knew that Omar was a great baseball talent evaluator was when I came up with the idea that I could be the first great Latino agent to represent players.

I took Omar to the Dominican Republic sometime in the 80s. While there he led me to some incredible talent. The best one of all was a young boy named Jose Rijo who in 1990 become the World Series MVP for the Cincinnati Reds. In 1984 Rijo would go on to become the youngest Yankee ever. That was the same year that the Mets introduced a 19-year-old Doc Gooden to the World.

Omar’s evaluation skills were so good that he received and took a job offer from Sandy Johnson and the Texas Rangers.

Throughout our baseball life, I’m proud to say that we have always looked out for thy fellow man. I’m forever grateful that Omar gave a minor league manager’s job to one of my Yankee heroes Walt No Neck Williams when I asked Omar to help Walt.

In 1995 Gene Michael stepped down as general manager. In speaking to George Steinbrenner I told him to please check on Omar as a candidate. I knew that the Boss was interested in a minority hire. The Boss asked me why I thought Omar was the right guy and I said because he is smart, has great baseball instincts, and your the General manager anyway so Omar more than most will understand that. He laughed and said that it was a good idea. Unfortunately, Gene Michael, who I loved with a passion talked him out of it citing that Omar was just too young. Gene already had Bob Watson on his mind.

Omar would continue as one of the all-time great scouts and eventually become the first Latin general manager in baseball history when he took the reigns of the Montreal Expos. One of his first moves was to get Bartolo Colon from the Cleveland Indians.

Because Omar knew that I had a brotherly relationship with Colon, Omar asked me to help him with Colon’s initial press conference.

Omar would make more history by becoming New York’s first Latin general manager when he got the job with the Mets.

Because I had always talked to Omar and dreamed of working together I asked the Boss if I could go with Omar for a year to help him out and he said In a not-so-positive way, sure go ahead. I did have a meeting with Jeff Wilpon but it just didn’t work out.

I will say that I was really very proud of Omar for having the true guts and instincts to hire Willie Randolph at that time. It was a great hire … A historic hire that has not received the true fanfare that it deserved. Especially in New York.

Now In 2023 Omar Minaya joins the Yankees as the Senior Advisor to baseball operations.

I use to love bringing Dave Valle, Harold Reynolds, and Omar to see Mr. Steinbrenner just so that the Boss could see what great people they are.

This being my 50th year in baseball I take it as a spiritual gift from the baseball Gods that Omar is finally a Yankee.

They (the baseball gods) more than anyone have known that I always wanted this. I remember telling Mr. Steinbrenner how great it would be to have both Dave Valle and Omar with the Yanks and he would say that when the timing is right they would be here. Well in the case of Omar Minaya, the timing is right!

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