People around the country will celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday. But yesterday in the Bronx, members of the New York Yankees organization got into the holiday spirt a little early.
Last night, the Presbott Foundation held it’s annual turkey giveaway at Grand Slam, a batting cage and baseball-themed entertainment center. Organized by Yankees scout Cesar Presbott and his wife, Dr. Angelica Presbott, the event distributed loads of Thanksgiving meals to families and members of the Latino community who live within blocks of Yankee Stadium.
The scout was joined by Yankees reliever Dellin Betances, general manager Brian Cashman, and Mark Wilson, associate scout for the Yankees and the GM of Hank’s Yanks. Hank’s Yanks is a a competitive league, named for Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner, that provides financial and spiritual support through baseball to kids in need.
Also there to lend a hand were players from Hank’s Yanks and hundreds of the Yankees’ Bronx neighbors.
Presbott knows that, for some families, buying their own turkeys, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie might not be an easy feat. So, he says, he wants to help people celebrate the holiday and inspire others to always contribute — even if they are starting from a tough place just like he did.
He grew up in a San Pedro De Macoris in the Dominican Republic. He came to New York City, where he worked shifts as a taxi driver and as a Macy’s employee before turning to baseball. We spent a year with the Phillies organization, in 1972, then began his career with the Yankees. He landed a full-time scouting job in 1982 and worked his way up the ranks to become the team’s head scout.
Over the course of his baseball journey, Presbott has given back to the community. He has been giving out Thanksgiving meals on the Tuesday before the holiday for decades. And five years ago, Presbott and his wife began the foundation to help do more good.
The turkey giveaway is just one of many year-round programs supported by the foundation. Others include providing wheelchairs for needy children and ambulances for Presbott’s Dominican hometown (which is hours away from a hospital), and arranging special workouts with the Bombers to motivate kids to stay in school.
Presbott’s dedication to staying true to his roots is something the other Yankees believe in, too.
“Trying to give back at all times is important to all of us. I was taught that growing up,” Cashman said. “Anytime, with the Yankees, that I can shine a light on what a lot of people in the world are doing for others, we’re all better for it.”
Betances echoed that sentiment. Growing up in Washington Heights, where his Dominican family lived in a strong Latino community, taught him that it’s important to stay true to yourself — and to give back.
“This is what it’s all about,” Betances said. “As an athlete, growing up here in New York, you want to obviously go out into the communities and be as helpful as you can. Whenever you have times like this, it shows appreciation for where you came from.”
But as Wilson, the GM of Hank’s Yanks, puts it, you don’t need a holiday to have a reason to help your community. And you don’t have to be a Yankee.
“It doesn’t have to be done with just the Yankees pinstripes on. It can be done by yourself, through a church, school, local community groups, anything,” Wilson said. “Everybody can pitch in and make a difference. We can together make a difference if we all do our part.”
Photos: Max Mannis