Tagged: HOPE Week

George Murray: Forever courageous

By Jon Lane
Sad news broke last night when George Murray, who enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon at Yankee Stadium on July 22 thanks to HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel), lost his battle with ALS.

HOPE Week was the Yankees’ wonderful community program that publicized five remarkable stories intended to inspire individuals into action in their own communities. The organization surprised Murray and his wife Kim – on the day the couple celebrated their ninth anniversary – and son Trason with a meet-and-greet with Yankees players in the Billy Martin suite followed by a postgame tour of Yankee Stadium. During an interview with Murray, I brought up how Yankees legends Lou Gehrig and Jim “Catfish” Hunter lived with such a terrible disease with dignity.

“I never attempted to compare myself to those real men,” he said. “I think if we all look inside us, then maybe we can have some of that strength.”

Allow me to put Murray in the same category as those men and many more. Murray is a hero. He served our country as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne and performed a peacekeeping mission in Haiti. Murray is a role model. When he found out he had ALS, he was ready to fight back and live his life as a committed husband and father.

I only knew Murray for 10 minutes but I’ll never forget him. I left the suite telling myself he was one of the most courageous invididuals I’ve ever met.

6:45 p.m.
Phil Hughes shared his thoughts on the positive impact he made on George Murray and his family.

“Just the expression on his face and the joy we were able to give him on that day … you saw a guy who really looked like a fighter. It’s tough and I know a few of the guys took it hard,” Hughes said. To be able to bring him a bright spot during his last days is something I’ll always remember.

“People get caught up that we’re the real heroes. That’s not the case. We play baseball. This guy served our country. He’s way more of a hero than any one of us.”

The Lodown

By Jon Lane
It’s been an eventful week on YESNetwork.com. I worked yesterday’s 6-4 Yankees win that showed me that while the Yankees are contenders, they need to prove they can beat A-list opponents before being considered an elite team. Still, an old credo from 1996 has helped them maintain focus, which a couple of players said will be the difference when they meet the Rays next week and the Red Sox next month.

Jerome Preisler worked the game with me and this morning eloquently broke down Nick Swisher’s day of redemption.

After the game I spoke exclusively with Phil Hughes. Showing the maturity to accept the hand he’s dealt, Hughes has thrived as Mariano Rivera’s primary set-up man.

The Off the Wall podcast with Chris Shearn debuted last night. The host of BPTV talks Erin Andrews, Roy Halladay and calls out the mecurial nature of the New York sports fan.

HOPE Week has been a huge success and there’s still more to come. I was there to tell the heartbreaking and powerful story of George Murray, a former Army paratrooper suffering from ALS. I came away having experienced first hand the quality of courage. Jerome, Joe Auriemma and Christa Robinson will be on hand for tonight’s special installment. And be sure to watch Yankees Pre Game at 6:30 for a special feature about Helping Others Persevere & Excel.

Yanks shoot for sixth straight win

By Jon Lane
A beautiful Wednesday morning here at Yankee
Stadium for the finale of the Yankees’ three-game set against the
Orioles. It’s A.J. Burnett on the bump for New York, which took over
sole possession of first place in the AL East last night for the first
time since June 8. Since Alex Rodriguez returned from the disabled list
one month earlier, the Yankees are 43-22, the best record in baseball.

is 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA over his last four starts. According to STATS
Inc. he’s 8-1 with a 4.83 ERA in 10 career starts against the Orioles.
It was on April 9 in Baltimore when Burnett made his Yankees debut by
allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings to earn an 11-2 win.

I’ll be back later with lineups and assorted team news, along with details of today’s installment of HOPE Week.
Yesterday, Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain, Andy Pettitte and Kevin
Long met a couple of inspirational people. Tom Ellenson is a Little
Leaguer with cerebral palsy. His father, Richard, created a device that
allows non-verbal individuals like his son to more easily communicate.
Tom and his friends from his Little League team were treated to lunch
at Out of the Kitchen in Greenwich Village before he and other children
with cerebral palsy participated in a rally and baseball clinic. The
photo below was provided by the Yankees.

hope_275.jpg12:58 p.m.
spent some time before the game in the Billy Martin suite covering
today’s HOPE Week event: the powerful story of George Murray, a
terminally ill ALS patient who to their surprise were welcomed by a
large contingent of family and friends – as well as Derek Jeter, Phil
Hughes, Brian Bruney, Hideki Matsui, Phil Coke, Cody Ransom and Mark

George and his family were just shown on the Diamond
Vision, his 4-year-old son, Trason, sitting on his lap. Coke is on the
field behind home plate greeting George, Trason and Kim. This feature
will run on YESNetwork.com this afternoon.

1:27 p.m.
Some notes from Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference:

He’s not schizo like Oliver Perez, but when A.J. Burnett pitches he
either walks the earth or is electric, in other words he’s either feast
or famine. Girardi was asked what impresses him more, when Burnett is
completely dominant or if he has to gut it out.

In his last start on Friday, Burnett allowed three runs and six hits
with five walks in six innings, starting 15 of 27 batters with balls
and throwing 57 of 104 pitches for strikes. The start prior, Burnett,
walked four gave up seven hits and threw three wild pitches while only
striking out two in a 4-3 in over the Twins. 

“I think it’s more impressive when a guy has to gut his way through,
because sometimes the have to be more creative and they can’t just rely
on their stuff solely to get people out,” Girardi said. “You’re going to
get in some jams and have to figure out a way to get out of them.” 

worked swiftly through the first inning, allowing only a one-out hit
while throwing eight pitches and earning the final two outs tossing
just two.

? Through one turn anyway, Joba Chamberlain, Andy
Pettite and Sergio Mitre assuaged concerns over the back end of the
Yankees’ rotation after Burnett and CC Sabathia.

“When everyone is doing their job, it takes a little bit of pressure
off the other starters in the sense of I have to win today,” Girardi
said. “By everyone doing their job, they’re able to concentrate more on
what they have to do that day.”

? Girardi appears a lot more relaxed and settled into his job compared to last year, but he mainains his demeanor is the same.

think I’m pretty much the same guy I think I’ve learned a lot on how to
handle situations better, so I might appear to be a little looser. I’m
an intense guy who’s going to laugh and going to have fun, but there’s
an intensity in there.”

1:32 p.m.
Yankees blast rookie Jason Berken for four runs on six hits in the first, very encouraging considering their track record against pitchers they face for the first time. Berken has lasted past the fifth inning just once in his last five outings, going 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in that span.  

1:36 p.m.
WEEI.com reports the Red Sox have acquired Adam LaRoche from the Pirates for two prospects. Adam’s brother, Andy, was part of last year’s three-team blockbuster that sent Jason Bay to Boston and Manny Ramirez to the L.A. Dodgers.

2:03 p.m.
From goat to hero: Nick Swisher pulls a Luis Castillo to start the third inning and a Willie Mays to end it.

2:47 p.m.
I’m back after filing my feature on George Murray and HOPE Week. Swisher with a leaping catch against the wall in right. When did he turn into Ichiro?

3:07 p.m.
Phil Hughes warming up with two out in the seventh inning of a 5-0 Yankees lead against a bad team. Why not give Mark Melancon some work? He’s probably here for only another week until Damaso Marte returns.

3:11 p.m.
5-2 Yankees. I’d bring him in now.

3:57 p.m.
Just when you think you’re in the clear, Brian Bruney gives up back-to-back jacks to Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. So effective early in the season, Bruney has completely lost it since coming off the disabled list for the second time. To protect what’s now a 6-4 lead, Joe Girardi was forced to summon Mariano Rivera, who benefits from any time off he receives.

5:05 p.m.
To cut Bruney some slack, today was his first appearance since July 10. And despite the back-to-back gopher balls Joe Girardi said it was the best stuff he’s seen from the struggling right-hander since he was activated from the DL June 17. Girardi added he’d make it a point to offer those words of encouragement, though Bruney went on to imply that he’s never been one who needs a pat on the back.

Nevertheless, Bruney, like Girardi, looked beyond the numbers. He’s been on the DL twice this season with muscle and elbow strains because he tried gutting it out instead of telling anyone. The layoff may have affected him to a certain extent, but today he felt life in his arm again.

“It feels like a long time since I felt pretty good,” Bruney said. “It’s not an issue of I’ve been healthy or not healthy. It’s just as a pitcher your arm feels a certain way and you can just tell the way your arm feels, and it just hadn’t felt right. I felt like I commanded the ball pretty well minus two pitches.”

Phil Hughes continues to be a revelation out of the bullpen. The right-hander tossed another scoreless inning, has not allowed a run in his last 14 outings and his current 20-inning scoreless stretch, dating back to June 10 at Boston, is the longest by a Yankees reliever since Mariano Rivera in 2005 (23), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. I chatted with Hughes, who owns a 0.81 ERA in 16 appearances, exclusively after the game and will have more on his story tomorrow.

HOPE Week: Day 1

By Jon Lane
The Yankees kicked off HOPE Week today when Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera and Joe Girardi paid a visit to the Chiappetta family. Each helped donate athletic equipment and food vouchers to their organization, the Patchwork of Young Leaders Society.

In the summer of 2006, Marco and Jennifer Chiappetta were married and
returned to their roots in Washington Heights.
While taking walks together, they were saddened by the sight of local
schoolyards that had been abandoned by children. Inspired to make a difference, Marco visited a park near his home to engage in athletics with whomever
wanted to play. His hope was that emotional connections on the
schoolyard could eventually spark a change in the culture of the

Within a month, upwards of 60 teenagers began showing up to enjoy the
camaraderie and positive atmosphere of Marco’s activities. The couple
also opened their home to these children, offering stability and
encouragement many had never experienced. Even
for kids whose parents took an active interest in them, Marco and
Jennifer served as a bridge between the generations.

As time has
passed, the original children have become mentors themselves. As for Marco and Jennifer, who personally funded many of the group’s grassroots efforts from their own personal savings, they formalized their activist work into the Patchwork of Young Leaders Society. For more information or to donate, click here.

Tonight, the Chiappettas, the teenagers and some of the teenagers’ parents will attend the Yankees-Orioles game as special guests of the team.

Back to work

By Jon Lane
The Yankees begin the second half of their season tonight at Yankee Stadium, where A.J. Burnett takes the ball against Luke French and the Detroit Tigers (YES HD, 7 p.m.). There are storylines aplenty entering the summer’s dog days, including Burnett, writes Peter Abraham. The right-hander posted a 1.77 ERA in winning his last three starts and is 4-1 with a 1.34 ERA in his past five. For all the talk of CC Sabathia’s importance, and it’s legit, Burnett must continue to show that he’s peaked and is capable of carrying a team.

A few other random thoughts as we gear up for the weekend, which includes Old Timer’s Day on Sunday. I’ll be on-site with lots of blogging and storytelling.

The Yankees hope to emerge from a four-day break recharged after a three-game sweep in Anaheim, where they allowed 29 runs to the Angels that wiped out an eight-game road winning streak. The Tigers (48-39) are a good team in the mold that’s given the Yankees fits. Against the first-place teams they’ve played in 2009, New York’s record is 5-15. Tonight and the weekend is the first of many statement games and series. This is the time of year where business gradually begins to pick up and the next couple of weeks could determine whether the Yankees will be major players at the trade deadline. Those reports you’ve been seeing on how they won’t be pursuing Roy Halladay? Take them with a grain of salt. Brian Cashman loves to fly stealth.

Speaking of Doc, like with any great debate, there are those who want him in pinstripes at any cost, others at only the right price and those who think it’s crazy for Cashman to gut a farm system he so painstakingly rebuilt. Steven Goldman’s message to the Yankees: Don’t do it. As Newsday‘s Anthony Rieber wrote yesterday, the Yankees can and must take on Vernon Wells’ bloated contract to make this happen while preserving the system. But as one fan points out, Plan B — a Brian Bannister or Paul Maholm — is the best route. What do you think?

Alex Rodriguez is once again generating attention, except this time it’s been confined strictly to the baseball diamond, and that’s a good thing. Over his last 17 games, A-Rod is batting .373 (22 for 59) with eight home runs and 22 RBIs. His first game was May 8, yet Rodriguez ranks second on the team in homers (17) and tied for second in RBIs (50), and the Yankees are a league-best 38-22 since his return.

Still, there’s something about the Yankees’ performance against the Red Sox that gnaws at you. Oh, that 0-8 record. And if there’s enough to worry about coming from Boston, beware of the Rays, writes Goldman.

Check back on YESNetwork.com for lineups and updates from the Stadium. And be sure to read about HOPE Week a program designed to promote five remarkable stories and inspire others into action.

Yankees introduce HOPE Week

hopeweek.jpgBy Jon Lane
The Yankees announced a great program that will run next week. Here’s the 411:


The New York Yankees are proud to introduce HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel), a unique week-long community program that will bring to light five remarkable stories intended to inspire individuals into action in their own communities.

The creation of HOPE Week is rooted in the fundamental belief that acts of goodwill provide hope and encouragement to more than just the recipient of the gesture.

Each day from Monday, July 20, through Friday, July 24, Yankees players will reach out to an individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support. All daily celebrations will culminate at Yankee Stadium, however, outreach will often take place away from the ballpark. Whenever possible, the Yankees’ goal is to personally connect with individuals in the settings of their greatest personal accomplishments.

For the Yankees, this event is unique in that every player on the roster, along with manager Joe Girardi, will participate.

HOPE Week also strives to bring attention to the week’s highlighted causes and organizations. The greatest challenge facing many not-for-profits is generating interest, awareness and funding for their missions.

HOPE Week will consist of the following stories and events:

Monday, July 20: A newly-married couple saddened by the sight of abandoned schoolyards in their New York City neighborhood decided to become mentors to at-risk young people in their area. Their work over the years has had a profound effect on the neighborhood as children who began in their program have become mentors themselves. Players will surprise the neighborhood children by dropping in for lunch at the couple’s household from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Players will bring food and sporting goods, speak with everyone there and invite the couple and the children to the Stadium for the game that evening.

Tuesday, July 21: A child with cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheelchair and unable to communicate through conventional speech became an inspiration to his Little League teammates by dressing in uniform, sitting in the dugout with them and giving high fives as necessary. This season, the team won the league championship. Additionally, his father is the inventor of revolutionary equipment that allows non-verbal individuals to communicate in new ways. Yankees players will meet the child and his best friends for lunch at a local eatery. Afterward, everyone will go to the local Little League field to meet the child’s teammates and other children with cerebral palsy. Yankees players will then give a talk about baseball and sportsmanship before holding a brief baseball skills clinic. The child and his teammates will attend the Yankees game that evening.

Wednesday, July 22: An Army veteran in upstate New York has lost use of his arms and legs due to ALS. His wife is a pillar of their local community. At a party with his family and friends this weekend, he will be shown a videotaped message from a Yankees player, inviting him to fulfill his dream of watching a game at Yankee Stadium with his young son. Included in the invitation are his wife and son. What none of them know is that Yankees players will have an added surprise for them when they arrive at the Stadium. Additionally, they will receive a private Stadium tour from Yankees players following the game.

Thursday, July 23: Xeroderma Pigmentosum is a rare (approx. 150 in U.S. and 1,000 worldwide) genetic disorder that prevents sufferers from going outdoors in daylight. UV light, including florescent lighting, causes them severe burns and eventually skin and eye cancer. Campers (and their families) from a special camp that caters to their unique needs will travel to Yankee Stadium, arriving after sunset to watch the remainder of the evening’s game from a party suite. Immediately after the last pitch, the field will be transformed into a massive open-air carnival for the families, who will be joined by Yankees players and their families. The fun will continue until approximately 4:00 a.m., when the XP families must re-board their buses in order to make it back to camp before daybreak.

Friday, July 24: With the help of a major non-for-profit human services network, two young men with developmental disabilities have integrated into the workforce at a company in New York City. Yankees players will surprise them at work and take part in their day, helping them to complete their daily assignments. A lunchtime party with the visiting players will celebrate the two individuals as well as the company that had the courage to hire them. At the conclusion of the party, the two young men will be transported to Yankee Stadium, where they will return the favor by assisting Yankees staff with their day-job expertise, before taking in the evening’s game.

Those inspired by HOPE Week stories can look to New York City’s NYC Service and President Barack Obama’s United We Serve, which promote and find outlets for volunteerism.