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Baseball academy students hear stories about the legendary Babe

The baseball great's granddaughter stops at the Kotchman Baseball School to share the legacy of the Yankees' Sultan of Swat.

By JON WILSON
Published March 20, 2007


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PINELLAS PARK - Linda Ruth Tosetti spoke of her famous grandfather, earning the rapt attention of a dozen youngsters and about that many adults, among them Mayor Bill Mischler.

It isn't every day that a relative of the man often revered as baseball's greatest player comes to town.

"I know one thing, he loved you guys," Tosetti told a group of boys kneeling around her.

Tosetti is the granddaughter of Babe Ruth - the Sultan of Swat, the New York Yankee great, a legendary figure in sports.

She and Yankees executive Ray Negron, who is also the author of a children's book, came to the Kotchman Baseball School, 6360 39th St. N, where longtime coach and pro ball player Randy Kotchman opened his first indoor academy late last year.

The occasion? Pure fun, and a chance for Tosetti and Negron to talk about their work and inspire the kids.

Kotchman and his wife, Yvonne, had cake, wings and soft drinks on hand. Kotchman, a former Seminole High star and a coach in the California Angels system, showed Tosetti a prized possession: a 1934 baseball card of Ruth.

Tosetti, 54, is from Connecticut. She has light red hair and looks a little feisty, like her grandfather.

She talked to the youngsters like a big sister, telling them about the Bambino's early days at Baltimore's St. Mary's Industrial School, considered a kind of reformatory.

"Because he was not a very good little boy, but look what happened," Tosetti said, alluding to the Babe's career.

She began her efforts to keep the best parts of Ruth's legacy alive during the 1990s, a few years after her mother, Dorothy Ruth Pirone, died.

Tosetti had been talking to officials at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"An epiphany came to me," she said. "I realized I can spread the word (about Ruth)."

Negron has a story of his own. As a teenager, he got in trouble for painting graffiti at Yankee Stadium.

Owner George Steinbrenner rescued him from jail and gave him a batboy's job, Negron said. He has been a Yankees' devotee and Steinbrenner loyalist since.

"I haven't been a bad boy for 34 years," said Negron, 52.

He wrote Boy of Steel, about a youngster with cancer, that is raising money for research.

He has another on the burner - this one about Ruth and Jackie Robinson - that he vows will "put people closer together. This book is not a baseball book. It's a book about love."

Tosetti is writing its foreword.

Lately, she said, she has been "talking about Babe every day of the week."

Last week, she threw out the first pitch at the Yankee's spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at Legends Field in Tampa.

[Last modified March 20, 2007, 00:44:20]


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