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In this line of business it is refreshing to work with individuals who have real convictions and stand up for what they believe. Johnny Estrada is one of these rare individuals who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.
Johnny grew up in a rough neighborhood plagued by drug and alcohol abuse. He witnessed the devastating effects that drugs have on individuals, including friends and family, and the surrounding community. Johnny chose to focus his time and energy on baseball and living a clean life. Johnny founded his No Drugs Foundation (http://www.nodrugsbaseball.com/) to promote living a drug-free life to children across the country. Through his organization he leads many community outreach programs to educate kids about the dangers of drug abuse. Hearing a similar message at an early age helped him stay away from drugs, and he’s committed to passing that message forward.
To help Johnny promote his No Drugs message, we embroider his No Drugs Foundation logo on his chest protector, leg guards, and mitt. Here are some shots that I took in the National’s locker room with Johnny (I had to be discrete because I was wearing a pass that clearly said “No Cameras”… apologies for the slight blurriness).
I find it fitting that this season Johnny is playing for the Washington Nationals. Back in the early ’80s, Washington D.C. was the birthplace of the “Straight Edge” hardcore scene. Straight edge is a genre of hardcore punk rock that promotes a lifestyle of abstaining from drugs and alcohol. D.C. bands such as The Teen Idles, Minor Threat, and S.O.A. (Henry Rollins’ first band), spawned a revolution or movement for positive values and resisting peer pressure. The beautiful irony is that what some would call harsh and destructive sounding music is in fact the foundation or rally cry for non-destructive values.
I grew up listening to Minor Threat, Youth of Today, and local Boston straight edge bands such as SSD (Society System Decontrol), DYS, and Slapshot. Central to the positive straight edge message is a core value that we are all just kids. There is a beautiful essence in that, and there is a loss of innocence when drugs and alcohol enter the equation.
(Album cover from XCLAIM records www.xclaim.com/ssd/)
As SSD says, “The kids will have their say.” There is a lot of truth in this simple statement. Johnny Estrada is doing his part to empower today’s kids with the strength and confidence to resist peer pressure and make a stand for a drug-free life. Johnny is a role model for kids everywhere (he is also a role model for other professional athletes, if you catch my drift).
On my last afternoon in Florida, I swung by the Nationals just to say hi to Johnny once again. He had just got back from the opening day ceremonies for a local Little League where he made an appearance. Like I said, Johnny talks the talk and walks the walk.
While I waited 45 minutes in the lobby of Legends Field to see the Yankees, I was psyched to see this photo of Joe Girardi proudly displayed.
This same Sports Illustrated cover from November of ’96 hangs in my dad’s office. Girardi sported our gear for years back when he was behind the plate. My father and Joe go way back.
We’re a family business, and in turn we have always taken care of players’ families… even long after they’ve left the backstop themselves. Here are a few shots of Joe suiting up his son in the gear we sent him back in January:
You can find more photos by going to the Yankees website below, clicking on their photo gallery, and then selecting the gallery titled “2/15 Girardi Spring Training.”
How cool would it be to be that young and march out onto Legends Field? Just sitting steps away in the dug out was pretty cool for me.
After seeing all the players, I dropped in and said hello to Joe on my way out. What a nice guy. We first met two years ago back when he was on the Marlins. He still gives us feedback on how to keep making our gear better and better.
You know, everyone thinks that it’s like a vacation going around to all these camps. You know, rubbing elbows with big time players, hanging around locker rooms, hearing the latest clubhouse gossip. But it’s work I tell ya!
A lot of what we do is hurry up and wait. We get up early in the morning, drive to the training facility, get through security, catch up with the equipment manager and then try to catch players before they hurry off to the field. But sometimes you’re thwarted because a few guys are taking early morning BP and then rushing out to their sessions and drills. So you wait. And you wait some more.
Depending on the level of security, I might be able to walk out on to the fields and watch some practice. Sometimes, however, I’m stuck twiddling my thumbs in the locker room.
My trip to the Yankees was perhaps the longest wait. Legends Field definitely had the tightest security of all the complexes. I had to wait for 45 minutes in the lobby before I could get into the clubhouse. Maybe this is standard practice, but I suspect that I got special treatment because they knew I’m from the Boston area.
By the time I got into the locker room, everyone had just hit the field. So I spent the next 3 hours watching practice from the dugout. I couldn’t really wander out of the dugout, and a lot of the practices were taking place on other fields. But I’m not complaining… it was pretty sweet being there.
More stories from theYankees to follow…
Folks…. sorry for the lapse in posts. Last week my father and I finished up our rounds of all the MLB teams in Florida and Arizona. After being out of the office for two weeks I’ve been playing catch up.
I’ve got more stories and more pictures. And I’ll get them up as soon as I can.
Early this morning I saw Guillermo Quiroz and Omir Santos at the Baltimore Orioles… such nice guys. On my way out I snapped the picture below. This is the fence that keeps the fans from ransacking the players’ cars and trucks.
Notice anything odd? Look closely. Closer still. Can you see the slot made in the fence? Just to the right of the sign. It’s only big enough to fit a ball, a fist, and possibly an arm. This is where fans wait anxiously all day long. I can’t even begin to imagine the craziness that surrounds this slot at the end of the day when the players are leaving.
I bet there have been a few limbs lost over the years. “Yep, Jimmy lost his arm back in ’07. It was a rough year. Sure, he walked away with one less arm and hand, but he did not leave empty handed. Nope. He got Kevin Millar’s autograph for grandma. Sometimes you gotta take one for the team.”
Somewhere in Port St. Lucie, Fl,
It’s getting kind of lonely traveling across Florida all by my self. But it’s pretty clear why my dad sent me to Florida and not Arizona… all this driving and staying in a different hotel every night. In Arizona you can basically use one hotel as your base for the two weeks that you are there.
So I find it somehow fitting that on the day I visited the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, I passed a work crew on the side of the road:
This was just a mile down the street from the Pirate’s complex. Dad, where are you sending me?
On my way leaving the Pirates I was half expecting to see something like this:
(Picture courtesy of any number of websites out there)
I stopped at one of the 10,000 Cracker Barrels for lunch (I swear there is a Cracker Barrel at each and every exit off the highways of Florida). What was really odd is that I took my seat, and as I was perusing the menu, the Soggy Bottom Boys came on the radio and were singing Man of Constant Sorrow. Coincidence? I think not.