Ray Negron knows that he is blessed. In the spring of 1973, when Negron was 16, none other than George Steinbrenner, the Boss himself, caught the teenager tagging an "NY" logo on the outside of Yankee Stadium. Instead of pressing charges, the Boss gave Negron a job as a batboy. Negron has been around the game ever since. He was drafted in the second round by the Pirates in 1975 but couldn't hit enough to play pro ball so he returned to the Yankees where Billy Martin and Steinbrenner kept him busy. When Reggie Jackson arrived in '77, Negron became the superduperstar's personal assistant away from the park. "Reggie used to say that if he was the King of New York, then I was the Prince of the City," says Negron.
Negron was the one person who was close with Reggie, Billy and George during the most volatile days of the Bronx Zoo, making him a unique figure in Yankee history. After Jackson left New York, Negron tried his hand at acting, and later became a player agent, working first in Japan and then back in the States. He was the only minority GM in the short-lived Senior League in the late eighties. But he's perhaps most recognizable as an advisor to both Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden, the man who helped broker deals to bring the erstwhile Metropolitans to the Bronx in the mid-nineties. Negron's biological father was a physically abusive alcoholic, and his two younger brothers are addicts as well. Subsequently, he has specialized in drug counseling. Negron worked for John Hart in Cleveland and then Texas as a player liason--he was especially close with Roberto Alomar and Juan Gonzalez--before returning to the Yankees last year.
Negron appreciates how much his chance meeting with the Boss has helped shape his life. He is committed to sharing his success story, speaking often at local schools and hospitals. Last week, Negron released the first in a series of children's books he plans to write on topics like racism and drug abuse. The first title, The Boy of Steel, is a story about a young cancer patient who enjoys a magical experience at Yankee Stadium. Featuring large color illustrations, it is an ideal gift for any kid who loves the Yankees. Keep it in mind on your holiday shopping list this year. It's for a good cause, as all the profits will be distributed to various charities.