Yanks kick off HOPE Week on Broadway
Organization's week-long community outreach effort under way
NEW YORK -- His wife an actress, his workplace north of Broadway and his demeanor more befitting a sitcom than a Major League clubhouse, Nick Swisher seems a natural fit for the stage. But the Yankees' right fielder has no musical or theatrical background.
"I mean, I was from West Virginia," Swisher said with a laugh.
Nevertheless, Swisher stood front and center Monday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, leading teammates Francisco Cervelli, Chris Dickerson and Russell Martin in surprising kids from Daniel's Music Foundation for the Yankees' first HOPE Week event of the season.
The quartet spent the afternoon on stage singing everything from Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" to the Backstreet Boys' "Larger Than Life" with participants from Daniel's Music Foundation, a non-profit that provides free music instruction to individuals with disabilities in New York's five boroughs.
Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo started HOPE Week two years ago, with the acronym standing for Helping Others Persevere and Excel. The annual event will continue each day this week through Friday, with Yankees players surprising individuals, families or organizations worthy of recognition and support.
On Monday, Yankees players took the stage in front of curtains, which were raised to show kids from the foundation, surprised by their visitors. They exchanged warm greetings before singing Sinatra together.
"I didn't know what to do," Swisher said of the greeting. "I didn't want to be the dude standing by the curtain. I just thought I'd go and high-five a couple people and just kind of fit in somewhere. But either way, it's so funny. It's crazy. You meet one person, and the next thing you know you meet another person and another person, and then they're all like, 'Oh, you guys are Yankees.' And we're like 'Yeah!' So it's just an amazing time."
Daniel's Music Foundation is the brainchild of the family of Daniel Trush, a 27-year-old who suffered a catastrophic brain aneurysm as a 12-year-old in 1997. He spent 30 days in a coma, 341 days in the hospital, and was largely incapacitated through it all.
Daniel's father, Ken, sang to him and played music much of the time.
"Danny was hooked up to 16 lines; he had two drains in his brain," Ken said. "I would just sit there and hear the beeps. And I would play music, two Gloria Estefan songs, one which was 'Reach,' and one which was 'I'm Not Giving You Up.' I did it as much for me as for him."
When Daniel returned home he took music-therapy classes, and his transformation inspired his family to start the foundation in 2006.
Daniel was as surprised as anyone by the Yankees' appearance at his 150-person foundation Monday, and he was excited to have the opportunity to join his peers later Monday evening at Yankee Stadium for a game against the Mariners.
"I had no idea that they were coming," Daniel said, "so I was in total shock and awe."
Other former Yankees attended as well, with Bernie Williams playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on his guitar and John Olerud sitting in the crowd to surprise his old friend Daniel, whom he originally met more than a decade ago during his days with the Mets.
Olerud, who lives in the Seattle area, just happened to be visiting New York this week and stopped by for a surprise greeting.
"When I was with the Mets, I did a hospital visit to visit other kids that had brain surgery, because I had aneurysm surgery myself when I was in college," Olerud said. "So I met Daniel at that time, and we've just maintained contact. When I was with the Mariners and would come play, they would be at the Yankee game, and so I would basically get caught up. And they started the Daniel Music Foundation and they sort of kept us in the loop with all that they've been doing."
The day ended the same way it started, with the group and players singing "New York, New York" together on stage. The Yankees presented Daniel's Music Foundation a $10,000 check after the performance, and Swisher delivered the news that the kids would sing the national anthem before Monday night's game, which was greeted with a large ovation.
"I think on an individual note, I've always said, it's all about giving back," said Swisher, whose father, Steve, played nine seasons in the big leagues. "I think in my life I've had so much help along the way. And people have been in my life. And to be able to see the kids and the people that are here that might not have that same opportunity I have, and to be able to come here and put smiles on their face and let them know, 'Hey man, you got some people out there thinking about you.'
"It's just an amazing time, man. It puts things in perspective. For all of us, I think we need that from time to time. And just enjoy the day, because it's such a blessing to be here and meet all these kids."
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.