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Thursday, November 24, 2011

ONCE A YANKEE, ALWAYS A YANKEE

For me and I am sure millions of other Yankee fans, Thanksgiving is all about family. I am very thankful for my family and friends and know that I have been blessed. I am also very thankful for having the opportunity to write for Bleeding Yankee Blue as it continues to grow each and every day. BYB has given me the opportunity to get to know so many of you fellow fans and to share in our love and passion for the New York Yankees. We really are like a family. And part of what is so special about this job is that I also get to meet some amazing people who are part of the Yankee family. Not just current and former Yankee players but often their families who are involved with charities and causes that help millions of people.Well, I recently had the opportunity to interview an amazing woman who is part of our Yankee family. Her name is Natalie Niekro. I am sure many of you recognize her famous last name and that is because she is the daughter of one time Yankee pitcher Joe Niekro. Which, of course, makes her the niece of former Yankee pitcher and 300 game winner, Phil Niekro. In fact, Phil and Joe Niekro are the winningest brother combination in baseball history, with 539 wins combined.

Unfortunately, In 2006 Joe Niekro passed away suddenly of a brain aneurysm and Natalie almost immediately began to research aneurysms and her tireless work led to her establishing The Joe Niekro Foundation. Below is our conversation about her father, the foundation, and how you and I can help.
BYB: Natalie, first thank you very much for giving us a few minutes. Fans are certainly familiar with the Niekro name. Can you tell us what was it like to be the daughter of a Major League baseball player?

Natalie Niekro: Well I get asked that question often and what I always tell people is that I wish I was able to appreciate it more, particularly the places we traveled, etc. I was young so I always felt like a regular kid. I mean I knew my dad was a Major League pitcher but to me he was just my dad. He was someone I loved very much and he was a great dad.BYB: What is your fondest memory of your dad?

Natalie Niekro
: I was a little young to have taken away a specific memory or moment during those days but I will say that my fondest memory was going to the Astrodome and just being able to run around on the field and play with the other children of the players before games. In fact, I use to run around with Nolan Ryan's children.And I remember when we had to clear the field before the game started and we would take our seats to watch the game. It was a time of my childhood that I will always cherish.


BYB: Can you tell us something about your father that maybe many of us would not know?

Natalie Niekro: Well, when my Uncle (Phil Niekro) was tra
ded to the Yankees in 1985 my father was with the Houston Astros. My father actually approached the Astros management and asked to be traded to the Yankees so he could play with his brother. Not sure a lot of people know that. He really wanted to play with my Uncle and the Astros and the Yankees made that happen.

BYB: Natalie, because everyone reading this is most likely a Yankee fan, can you tell us what is was like for your dad to be part of that 1985 Yankee team?

Natalie Niekro: My dad was so happy to be playing with Uncle Phil and he always said that the Yankee organization really is like no other. The way they treat their players and fans is second to none. I just remember him always giving the Yankee organization so m
uch praise.
(In Photo: Phil Niekro)
BYB: How often to you see your uncle Phil Niekro these days? How is he?

Natalie Niekro: My Uncle Phil is doing great. I see him every so often and we talk frequently. Like me, he misses his brother very much and is active in helping get the word out on The Joe Niekro Foundation.(In Photo:Joe Niekro, Natalie, brother Lance Niekro)
BYB: Your father died of a brain aneurysm in 2006. What do you remember most about that day?

Natalie Niekro: My father's passing was a shock to me and everyone in my family. His aneurysm was sudden, unexpected and undiagnosed. Within 18 hours of Dad’s rupture, he was pronounced dead. In fact, it was just weeks before my wedding. It all happened so fast and it was literally at that moment that I decided to dedicate my life to educate the public on aneurysm.


BYB: So please tell us about the Joe Niekro Foundation?

Natalie Niekro: The Joe Niekro Foundation was established in 2007 in honor of my father. After my dad died from the aneurysm, I immediately started doing research to find out as much as I could about them. I was astonished by the lack of public awareness and under-support of research of such a widespread and often fatal condition. I decided that to launch the foundation to really bring awareness to this condition.

BYB: What is an aneurysm, and who are most vulnerable?

Natalie Niekro: Basically an aneurysm is a weak or thin spot on a blood vessel in the brain that balloons out. The bulging aneurysm can put pressure on a nerve or surrounding brain tissue. It may also leak or rupture, spilling blood into the surrounding tissue (called a hemorrhage). Brain aneurysms can occur in anyone, at any age. They are more common in adults than in children and slightly more common in women than in men.
BYB: How can our BYB readers find out more information and help support The Joe Niekro Foundation?

Natalie Niekro: All your readers have to do is head over to JoeNiekroFoundation.org -- we have a wealth of information on the website. There is so much more research that needs to be done so any help your readers could give would be greatly appreciated.


Thank you Natalie for taking the time and many thanks to Mikey for getting this interview. It's important on such a special day because it's about love and family. We love that we were able to give you this interview on Thanksgiving. Natalie is now a part of the Bleeding Yankee Blue family and we appreciate her taking the time. Her father will never be forgotten. Thank you so much Natalie!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

--Casey



--Mikey Blue, BYB Senior Writer
Email: DonnieBaseball2323@gmail.com
Twitter: @MikeyBlu23


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