Here at The Stain, we are all about taking a look at the lighter side of sports. But from time to time, there may be stories that must be shared because the human element of sports reminds us why sports are such a huge part of our lives. Ask me what I miss most about playing baseball, and I will tell you that despite that incredible feeling of standing on a mound staring down a hitter and just knowing there is nothing he can do, that you have him on the rope and you are about to sit him down no matter what he does, I miss the camaraderie I had with the guys in the dugout. I was watching the Yankees-Red Sox spring training game from Friday, and a story was shared that showed that camaraderie expands past your own dugout.
Ron Johnson is the first base coach for the Boston Red Sox. He spent more than 30 years coaching in the minor leagues before getting the job of base coach in the bigs, but that is nothing compared to the struggle his daughter recently went through. Johnson’s 10 year old daughter at the time, Bridget, was riding her horse with her sister near the family’s ranch in Tennessee when Bridget and her horse were struck by a car. The horse was killed on impact, and Bridget was nearly dead herself. She was rushed to the hospital where she underwent 12 different surgeries and nearly died on 3 separate occasions over the next 35 or so days that she was in the hospital. Her leg had to be amputated just above the knee. Johnson never left his daughter’s side, spending every day and night at the hospital.
When the family finally went home, there were letters and gifts from all over as word spread throughout baseball and the countless athletes Johnson had coached in his 30 years in baseball reached out to extend their thoughts and prayers. But one package above all others stood out. The Boston Red Sox coach had a package from the bitter rival New York Yankees. One of Johnson’s former players is current Yankee hitting coach Kevin Long. Long found out the medical bills for the Johnsons were accruing during the intensive rehab young Bridgett was going through were quickly becoming more than the Johnsons could afford. The Red Sox players and organization certainly helped out, but the bills kept coming.
Kevin Long decided to hold a team meeting sharing the story of his mentor’s daughter and asked the Yankee players to help out. Many of the players contributed to help out the Johnson family, including Jorge Posada, Mairano Rivera, and A.J. Burnett. That package from the New York Yankees that Johnson received was a letter from Kevin Long on behalf of the Yankee organization, including a rather generous check to assist with the medical bills. Needless to say, Ron and his wife, Daphane, will forever view the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry a little differently.
This past week, the now 11 year old Bridget was fitted for her permanent prosthetic, and has begun riding horses again. Where did she get the new horse? Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis bought her the new horse, and she decided to name it Youky. There is also a chance that Bridget may throw out the first pitch of the Red Sox home opener on April 8th, against, who else, but the Yankees. So this season, when you are watching the great rivalry that is the Sox-Yankees, don’t be surprised if you see a few more handshakes and a few less punches as these two organizations have proven there is plenty more to life than what goes on between the lines of the baseball field. Those athletes get paid to play the game they have loved since they were kids, and they put the competition aside, and used their good fortune to allow a kid to continue doing what she loves.