A Hero’s Message To Us All

Ray Negron is a sports executive with more than 40 years of experience in baseball. His first job came from a chance encounter with George Steinbrenner as a youth after he was caught by Steinbrenner scrawling a Yankee logo on a Yankee Stadium wall. Instead of punishing the erstwhile graffiti artist, Steinbrenner hired him as the Yankee bat boy and propelled him into a dream job; sharing the dugout with the Bronx Zoo Yankees of the 1970s. Today, he's a community consultant with the Yankees as well as a film producer, best-selling author and philanthropist.

I have been going through my most difficult period of being a dad. I have four children and feel proud that I have given them all the love in the world that in turn has helped them to be the greatest kids in the world. Have we had our difficult moments? Absolutely. Have we been hungry at times? Yes we have. However, we were always surrounded by love.

My youngest son Ricky was recently selected in the MLB Draft by the Braves. After Ricky signed his contract, we never heard from the Braves. He was never appointed a minor league team. Even though Ricky was working out twice a day we just were not getting a good feeling about the long delay and started to really feel sorry for ourselves.

Last night we were sitting down watching the ESPYs. All of a sudden they introduced the Pat Tillman award. The award went to Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro Jr. Del Toro said that he was receiving the award for just having a bad day at the office. He said that the most important thing for his getting better was that he hoped that his son would still accept him as a normal dad. They showed a picture of his son with tears of pride. Ricky and I had tears in our eyes. I told Ricky that for three weeks I have been feeling sorry for us and as always, there is always someone that has it worse.

Reggie Jackson introduced me to Israel Del Toro in March.

Reggie told me that it was important for me to meet this man, and then Reggie placed a very loving kiss on Israel's face. Now more than ever I know why Reggie wanted me to meet this wonderful man. Tonight, myself and Ricky no longer feel sorry for ourselves. Tonight I thank Master Sergeant Del Toro for the service and sacrifice he has made for the greatest country in the world.

If Ricky is not to ever play for the Atlanta Braves, then that’s ok. It’s their loss and we thank you for selecting my great son in the MLB Draft for the greatest game in the world. Again we must thank Israel for helping us understand.

In 2005, Del Toro was on a tour in Afghanistan when his Humvee rolled over a buried mine and exploded. More than 80 percent of his body was covered in severe burns and he lost all of his fingers on his left hand. A year later, Del Toro was not only able to breathe and walk on his own, he also took part in a variety of sports. In 2016, he won a gold medal at the Invictus Games, a sport competition for wounded servicemen and women.

“First, I’m humbled for even being considered for this prestigious award named after Pat Tillman, a man I admire, but to actually receive this honor is unbelievable,” Del Toro said in a statement. “When I heard that Pat Tillman gave up a career in the NFL to serve his country after the 911 attacks, it gave me so much pride to call him a brother in arms. He truly is a shining example of Service before Self. To Mrs. Tillman and the Pat Tillman Foundation, I give you my pledge that I’ll always try to live up to the true meaning of the Pat Tillman Award for Service in everything I do, and to represent his spirit to the best of my ability.”

Del Toro still serves in the military as the first 100 percent combatant Air Force technician.

For me, Del Toro is a wonderful role model that truly can help make this world a better place. It's funny how God has a way of communicating with us. The question is, "Do we always listen?"

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