Introducing Hank's Yanks - Hank Steinbrenner's Travel Baseball Teams
Hank's Yanks is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that support both the baseball activities as well as the community outreach work of it's outstanding young athletes. In addition, we have established and sustained a baseball program for people (of all ages) with disabilities. This objective is to provide an opportunity for those individuals to experience the joy and benefits that come from playing our national pastime. Our aims are to help the organization's players increase self esteem and develop social skills while promoting community support for the organization.
Thanks to Hank Steinbrenner's benevolence, kids from all walks of life, some from single-parent homes and one, Robert Cruceta, a parent to a two-year-old at the age of 17, Hank's Yanks was created to give these kids a chance to play baseball. The team is funded by the Yankees' co-owner and Yankees players who participated in the upcoming animated film "Henry and Me" with uniforms provided by Spalding.
"We have a responsibility to the young people, not only in this city but in all cities," said Hank Steinbrenner. "Even though I'm in Tampa I still want to do the best I can for those kids in New York."
Some of the players live in Freeport, N.Y., a town on the south shore of Long Island often run amok by gangs. In lieu of life on the streets, these kids are taking their aggressions on to the baseball field with positive results. During their visit, they were given a pep talk from Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.
"Relax, have some fun and enjoy," Long told them. "Watch some of the fellas take some good swings. Pay attention to [Derek] Jeter and watch the way he goes the other way. Watch the way A-Rod smacks it over the fence and watch the pretty swinger [Robinson] Cano."
Inspiration at their fingertips - Yankees manager Joe Girardi and players Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Cano, Francisco Cervelli, Joba Chamberlain and Marcus Thames were others that said hello - it's up to these kids to use the resources to their advantage. Ray Negron is a Yankees senior advisor and manager of Hank's Yanks who works closely with Hank Steinbrenner. His approach combines the psychology of Girardi and the hard-nosed, balls-to-the-wall philosophy that made Billy Martin famous as a field pilot.
Negron isn't shy about dangling a carrot as further incentive. In August the Yankees will be holding organization tryouts at Yankee Stadium and Negron's players have as good a chance as anyone. If they're good enough, and play hard enough, they will earn an invite. In January the team was provided a small sampling when it traveled to Tampa, Fla., to play at George M. Steinbrenner field before pro scouts.
"We're just trying to do the right thing by them," Negron said. "They're hustling and trying to make it. The youngest player is 14 and the oldest player is 18. The 18-year-olds we're trying to see if they work hard enough they'll be here for the tryouts in August. If they're willing to work we'll do whatever we can for them.
"Hank's Yanks came together to play baseball and represent the Yankees franchise. We're doing it respect and working hard to get to the next level."
Said Hank Steinbrenner, through Negron, after the game, "I'm very proud of my baby Yanks. My big Yanks ain't too bad either."
"Just to hear the name Steinbrenner is great," said Vinas, anointed as one of the team leaders. "He's told us to make the Yankees proud, to play with attitude and be yourself."
Hank Steinbrenner is watching his team very closely too. After every game he calls Negron to ask how they did, and if they lose he wants to know why. Following the exhibition tournament loss, Negron told Steinbrenner the bad news. Steinbrenner responded by kiddingly telling him, "You're fired." During the time George Steinbrenner roared loudest, he fought for every inch, every advantage, to ensure a Yankees victory. If you ask Hank Steinbrenner, the stakes with Hank's Yanks are just as high, if not higher. These kids need a mentor and behind the emotional support of the Yankees they've risen from their personal depths to make a comeback in the most important game, life.
"Hank is supporting them not just financially, but spiritually," Negron said. "The fact that he's stepped up is great. It's another Yankee miracle."