Why the Yankees send flowers for every police officer killed in the line of duty

Every baseball club supports causes and charities in their own neighborhoods, but what the New York Yankees have been doing for the past three years goes above and beyond the normal scope of team generosity. On Monday, the New York Times published a story that details the Yankees’ commitment to sending flowers to the families and colleagues of every police officer that dies in the line of duty. Not just in New York City or New York state, but across the whole country.

How did these acts of generosity begin?

The practice of sending flowers to the families and colleagues of fallen officers started much smaller. For decades, the Yankees have been sending flowers for fallen New York Police Department officers. But three years ago, it started to get bigger.

But one day in 2015, Sonny Hight, a former detective in the New York Police Department who is a Yankees vice president and the chief security officer, heard about a police officer killed in another state. Hight said he did not now remember the incident, the city or the date, only that he was moved to act.

“I just thought, hey, this guy deserves to be recognized for his sacrifice,” Hight said. “We should at least send some flowers acknowledging it.”

Hight emphasized to the Times that the gesture isn’t politically motivated, and it’s not meant to make a political statement of any kind. And this practice fits right in with the Yankees’ history of honoring law enforcement. George Steinbrenner started a foundation in the early 1980s that supports the families of officers killed in the line of duty.

The process is informal

There’s no official process or database the Yankees use to keep track of officers who have been killed. The sending of flowers starts simply: someone in the organization hears of an officer who has been killed in the line of duty, and passes that information along. The person who typically receives that information is Todd Letcher, the Yankees’ executive director for stadium security and a former FBI agent. Letcher researches the case, and then passes it on to longtime Yankees employee Debbie Nicolosi, who then arranges for the flowers to be sent. And she has sent a lot of flowers.

The goal of the project is to deliver flowers to the funerals or station houses of every officer killed in action nationwide, but they acknowledge that it is difficult to keep pace.

That’s an ambitious and kindhearted goal. The Yankees don’t know if they’ve accomplished it, but the organization tries. Nicolosi told the Times that she has no idea how many they’ve sent out over the past three years, but that it can sometimes be as many as two a week.

For the past three years, the Yankees have been sending flowers for every officer killed in the line of duty — not just in New York, but across the country. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
For the past three years, the Yankees have been sending flowers for every officer killed in the line of duty — not just in New York, but across the country. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

The gesture is meaningful — even for Red Sox fans

When a police department receives an arrangement of sympathy flowers from the Yankees, it’s probably weird but lovely and thoughtful. But if that station is located in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, right in the heart of Boston Red Sox fandom? It goes way beyond weird.

“I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan, and my first reaction was, ‘Call the delivery guy and tell him to take them back,’ ” Frank Frederickson, the Yarmouth police chief, said. “I say that in jest, of course. That is a class move, and it meant a lot to us. All the guys came down and wanted to see it. They were like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”

Everyone at the station wanted to see the Yankees flowers! Even die hard Red Sox fans are able to put the rivalry aside and recognize the kindness of such a gesture.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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