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Yankees open Hope Week with Broadway show

Russell Martin slapped the drum tentatively with the palm of his right hand, trying to keep up with his impromptu instructor.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Russell Martin slapped the drum tentatively with the palm of his right hand, trying to keep up with his impromptu instructor.

Less than an hour later, the New York Yankees All-Star catcher was banging away on a Broadway stage, jamming with the students of Daniel's Music Foundation.

"They can hear, they can keep rhythm," said Braulio Thorne, a 51-year-old, blind teacher and participant at the foundation that provides free music instruction to people with disabilities in New York.

The Yankees kicked off their third HOPE Week community initiative with a Broadway-style celebration of the music school founded in 2006, nine years after Daniel Trush had a burst arterial brain aneurysm at 12 years old.

Yankees' Nick Swisher, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Dickerson and Martin surprised the students at the Brooks Atkinson Theater in the bustling Times Square district, where the show "Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles on Broadway" is having a run, joining them — and several stage actors — onstage for several tunes, and finishing with a favorite of their own.

Swisher and Cervelli donned fedora-like hats and teamed with six students to sing and perform a choreographed dance to the Back Street Boys' hit "Larger than Life."

"More than anything it's about giving back. That's what Hope Week stands for," said a beaming Swisher, who admitted to knowing all the lyrics to the 1999 song.

Daniel Trush was playing basketball at a private school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 1997, when he collapsed. In those first couple of frightening nights, Daniel's dad Ken, was inspired by the beeping of the medical equipment that was helping monitor and sustain Daniel for what would become a 30-day induced coma.

He began singing and playing music to his son, constantly.

Ken's artist of choice: Gloria Estefan. He'd play the songs "Reach" and "I'm Not Giving You Up," sometimes five times a day.

"I played it over and over," Ken Trush said. "The interesting thing was we lost that CD and about three months later my wife bought it again and Danny knew all the words even though he was in a coma."

After 341 days in the hospital, music remained a big part of Daniel's recovery and when he graduated high school at 19 and started auditing classes at Hunter College in Manhattan, he continued to gravitate toward music.

The family started the foundation with five students and now has 150 of all ages, plus a waiting list. The Yankees donated $10,000 to the organization to help reduce that wait list to none.

On Monday, the students put on a big show, and Daniel sang a song he co-wrote with a volunteer instructor, "Daniel's Thank You Song." Former Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams, now a professional guitarist, played along.

"It felt great," Daniel said. "I never expected to perform on Broadway, that's for sure."

Later in the day, Daniel played "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" using his right hand only on the organ at Yankee Stadium, the performance shown on the video board in center field. Members of the foundation were scheduled to sing the national anthem before the Yankees played the Seattle Mariners.

Martin put his new drumming skills to work on the Sister Sledge song "We Are Family."

"Music is as close to magic as you're going to get," Martin said. "I probably will be more nervous now than I will be at the World Series."

The Yankees certainly knew the lyrics to the finale, "New York, New York," the Frank Sinatra song that plays after every home game.