Putting aside the rivalry to help a friend

FORT MYERS, Fla. — There have been times over the years where the Red Sox and Yankees hated each other. Pudge Fisk and Thurman Munson were bitter enemies and all of the Yankees wanted to punch Bill Lee’s lights out.

But in recent years, the rivalry exists between the organizations and the cities more than it does between the players. The players realize the games are different and it’s hard not to notice the additional fan intensity and media coverage. But there’s little animosity.

David Ortiz has been a friend and even a mentor to Robinson Cano. Just a few weeks ago we heard about A-Rod inviting Jose Iglesias to work out with him. Dustin Pedroia and Derek Jeter became friendly during the WBC.


Heck, Terry Francona does green tea ads with Joe Torre.

But this story by Dan Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal goes beyond that.

When Ron Johnson’s 10-year-old daughter Bridget lost her left leg in a terrible accident last summer, the Yankees chipped in to help with his medical expenses. Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, who once played for RJ in the minors, organized the effort.

“You just wanted to help in any way you can. We’re a huge family here,” A.J. Burnett told Dan.” Whether you’re a Yankee or anybody else, we’re all in it together.”

Much like RJ, Kevin is a baseball lifer who made his way to a big league coaching staff by working hard. Knowing Kevin, it’s not a surprise that he reached out the way he did.

It’s a really neat story (check out Joe McDonald’s piece on ESPNBoston.com for more) and it’s deserving of attention.

The Sox, as we’ve reported in the Globe, did their part for Johnson and his family, too. Kevin Youkilis is even helping buy Bridget a horse to replace the one lost in the accident.

The Sox and Yankees will try to clobber each other on the field, don’t you worry. Nothing will change that. But it’s good to know that behind those uniforms beat some good hearts.

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