The Forrest Gump of Baseball
Imagine this: you are a punk 16-year-old kid spray-painting a wall on the outside of Yankee Stadium. George Steinbrenner catches you in the act, grabs you and throws you in his tinted-window limo. A few minutes later he has you in a holding cell inside the Stadium (who even knew they HAD holding cells?).
Before you know it, The Boss has ordered you to dress into a former Yankee’s uniform and get out on the field to be the bat boy. You’re playing catch with the Yankees’ starting right fielder, out on the field in front of your friends, who thought for sure you were in jail.
Sound like a child fantasy? A Disney movie? It gets better …
You remain the bat boy to “pay off your debt”, according to Steinbrenner. Over the next 30 or so years, you:
– are assigned as Reggie Jackson’s personal gopher / lackey;
– are one of the few “mutual friends” among Jackson, Steinbrenner, and Billy Martin
– act in movies for Francis Ford Coppola, and alongside Andy Garcia, Nicholas Cage, and Richard Gere
– audition for the role of “Tubbs” in Miami Vice
– play professional baseball in the Pirates’ organization
– serve as an MLB player agent
– work as a scout for professional baseball in Japan
– spend a year living with Dwight Gooden to keep him clean
– manage to get both Gooden and your other good friend Darryl Strawberry back into baseball, convincing the Yankees to sign them
– continue to work in upper management for the Rangers, Indians, and finally back with the Yankees — in fact, are part of the “inner circle” that is always meeting down in Tampa
Still sound like a movie? A Forrest Gump-like storyline, eh? But this whirlwind of a life is so surreal, it couldn’t be made up.
In fact, the above is a brief overview of the life of Ray Negron, perhaps the most famous non-famous person in baseball history. A bat boy, a superstar’s lackey, an actor, a player agent, a drug counselor, a scouting consultant — what can Negron do next?
Ironically, he now — among other activities — writes children’s books. Perfect, don’t you think? A man who has lived a fantasy is now writing inspiring stories for kids. But what does this have to do with the Mets?
Nothing, really, except that he will be appearing tonight on “Live from Mickey Mantle’s“, and I will be the co-host. Log on to the radio show from 6 pm to 8 pm tonight, or download it later and listen at your leisure. In addition to interviewing Negron, we will be fielding your calls and questions about the Mets. Hope to hear from you.