By Felice Cantatore
One Last Time: Good–Bye to Yankee Stadium, by bestselling author and Long Island resident Ray Negron, is a grand slam not only for children, but for baseball fans of all ages. The anticipation for this book and the timing of its publication has officially made it the current No. 1 children’s book on Amazon.com. For Negron, the former Yankee bat boy and current special advisor to the New York Yankees, the book is also one of the best in his series of children’s books about the most successful baseball team of all time.
OLT allows the reader’s imagination to wander and dream about the greatest closing baseball finale ever. Negron skillfully had this reader feeling like he was sitting right in the Yankee dugout, as content as any baseball fan could ever be.
The spring of 2009 has arrived and the excitement of the new baseball season for the Yankees and the New York baseball fan is here. The wonderful smell of the stadium, hot dogs and peanuts is already in the air and the countdown to the grand opening of baseball’s most spectacular facility is days away. This is the year the Yankees move to their $1.3 billion stadium.
The state-of-the-art new stadium is located directly across the street from the original, a building that is still standing, awaiting its fate. Since 1923, the original Yankee Stadium—The House That Ruth Built—has been the greatest stage in the history of the game and the home to some of the biggest and best baseball stars and moments in Yankee and baseball history.
Will it ever be the same in the Bronx? Will the spirit of the Yankee greats move across the street? Could you imagine seeing all of these memorable Yankees of the past playing one last time in their beloved baseball home? It all comes to life in this new book, which is a moving tribute not only to one of the greatest buildings a man has ever worked in, but also to one of the most impressive men a person could ever work for, George M. Steinbrenner III. Ray Negron has captured my undivided attention in OLT—a tale that mixes the personal feelings and unmatched experiences of Negron, that allows all of the Yankee All-Stars to reunite, for one last memorable appearance at the Yankees’ original home.
Yes, it is a children’s book, but if you ask any baseball fan, no matter what his or her age, baseball makes you a kid at heart. OLT is an emotional read, and I gleamed with pride as Negron captured the true spirit of the game while offering his heartfelt tribute to Steinbenner.
“He is one of the greatest owners the game of baseball has ever seen,” says Negron; and in truth, The Boss has meant a lot to the author throughout his life and career. Negron has worked for the Yankees since he was 16 when a strange twist of fate landed him the job as a bat boy. He was actually caught by Steinbrenner painting graffiti on the outside walls of the stadium. As the story goes, The Boss, for some reason, took a liking to young Bronx native Negron, and with a fateful decision, Steinbrenner made him a bat boy for the team. Negron has been a Yankee lifer ever since.
The bestselling author worked his way up to become Steinbrenner’s special assistant, and he currently holds that position with pride for the new Yankee managing partners, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner. He respectfully represents the organization and spreads the Yankee spirit throughout the community while continuously focusing on children as he follows through and stays true to the Steinbrenner blueprint of success.
Nobody knows Steinbrenner like Negron does, although he wishes the rest of the world could. “Thr Boss has taught me everything about life and the spirit of sharing and being successful,” says Negron. “The greatest way that I could give something back to this wonderful man is by paying tribute to him through the eyes of children and future baseball fans, the children are important to him.”
The forward of OLT is written by Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson, and No. 44 states that the book is “a tremendous tribute to the Boss—if it were possible, the Boss would be the one to bring all of the Yankee greats back for one last time.”
The Yankee owner has called on his bat boy, Negron, to give the “Ole Girl,” Yankee Stadium, a special sendoff. As he caters to some current Yankees, skillfully illustrated by artist Laura Seally, the Boss asks Ray to bring all of the Yankee greats back for one final hurrah. Through the magic of the written word, the bat boy gets the job done with the likes of Casey Stengel, Billy Martin, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Catfish Hunter, Thurman Munson, Elston Howard, Bill Dickey, Lou Gehrig and the greatest of them all, Babe Ruth—to name a few. All of the great Yankee players receive the honor of playing the final game and officially closing the cathedral that is Yankee Stadium, their legendary home.
A symbolic passing of the torch allows the people who made history in this famous building, baseball fans and readers know that it is OK to move on into the future. The history will follow along and travel to the new stadium, where new stories will soon be told. As Yankee Stadium crumbles and the ghosts move to their new home across the street, at least they will know that their legend and history will carry on.
In the end what makes this book special is that it recognizes Steinbrenner for being that special influence to the author throughout his life. The Boss always motivated Negron to be his best. This sentiment was heartfelt when Negron told a story about his latest meeting with the Boss last week in Tampa. Negron stopped into Steinbrenner’s office to introduce him to Lenny Caro, the president of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce, and in his presence the Boss said, “Ray, well your book went to number one. When your last book was number two, I really wanted you to push to be number one.” Negron replied “Boss having you on the cover helped get me to one.” With that Steinbrenner smiled and said, “I am happy for you.” And in a very sincere and fitting tribute to the one man that means the world to Negron, he replied, “Boss, I am happy for us.” Like that conversation, OLT is something special.
One Last Time: Goodbye To Yankee Stadium is available at Amazon and local bookstores. This book and Negron’s other work can also be found online at www.batboyhelps.com. Proceeds from Negron’s book sales go to children’s charities worldwide, a gesture Negron says was instilled in him by Steinbrenner. He is also currently working on the animated film version of the book produced by Creative Group that will feature the voice of Richard Gere as Lou Gehrig, Hank Steinbrenner as his dad, and Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, Mariano Rivera and Goose Gossage as themselves. It is scheduled to arrive on the big screen next spring.