Yankees honor Musicians on Call during HOPE Week
Organization sends volunteer singers and musicians to perform for hospital patients
Baseball and music act as entertainment, but they can also act as healing distractions from life's heavy realities. That was the central theme at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Thursday, where both players and musicians united for a few hours in front of 40 pediatric patients and their families.
The Yankees -- represented by players Carlos Beltran, Chase Whitley, David Robertson, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno -- honored the organization Musicians on Call, which has sent hundreds of volunteer singers and musicians to perform for more than 400,000 hospital patients over the last 15 years.
Based in New York City, the organization, which primarily reaches patients who are confined to their rooms and given little interaction, has grown greatly since its inception. It has expanded to seven cities so far, and hopes to reach 20 more by next year.
"I grew up here in New York and so have been a lifelong Yankees fan," said Musicians on Call president Pete Griffin. "In many ways, our job is about bringing hope and joy in people's lives, as well as helping them disconnect from what can be a really tough situation as they're in the health care facility getting treated. For me, music has been that in my life, but the Yankees have been that also."
The musical event was a part of the Yankees' sixth annual HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere and Excel) to help recognize individuals or groups of people that have spectacular stories.
As patients filed into the auditorium, the Yankees took to the stage to offer some background percussion to the real musicians. The concert began with the song "Let It Be" and continued with some original songs by 16-year-old Kahya Cohen, who is in her second year with the program.
"It's awesome to be able to do something I love and have it improve someone's day," said Cohen, who will also sing Thursday night's national anthem before the game. "To be able to give back in that way is an amazing feeling. It's unforgettable when you walk into a room and you sing for someone, and they tell you that they made you feel so much better."
Former Yankee and current musician Bernie Williams joined the various groups on stage with acoustic guitar, strumming solos for everyone in attendance.
"It was probably the perfect event to be at as [a] former Yankee and being a musician as well, to bring both sides of myself to this hospital, to these kids," Williams said. "It's something that I'd like to say is required for professional athletes to come out here and do this kind of work. There's no price for this."
Before the end of the performance, the Yankees graciously supplied Musicians on Call with a $10,000 check to continue their work.
"The awareness that this is going to generate for our program is really above and beyond what we could hope for in itself," Griffin said. "To get that financial support from the Yankees is really going to be powerful."
After the performance for the group, the players and musicians went to visit two patients in hospital rooms who weren't able to join in the festivities.
"I think the musicians, what they're doing is amazing," Beltran said. "They're really taking time to visit hospitals, and that's what it's all about. At the end of the day, life is about being able to take out of your time and spend [it] with people who are going through difficult times. In my country, I do this a lot, so being able to do it here, I'm very, very happy."
The concluding song was a rendition of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," whose most famous lines, "Don't worry about a thing," seemed to convey the proper send-off.
"As you're playing the song, all of a sudden the people start to smile," Griffin said. "And they might start dancing or tapping their foot. … You know that in that moment, they're disconnected from going on in the difficult situation they're in."
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.