Friday March 04, 2011 | 07:35 AM

The Yankees and Red Sox play a spring training game today. Meaningless, of course, except for the fact that it is the Yankees and Red Sox; which is why NESN is sending a crew to Tampa to telecast the game.

While the word Yankees brings out the worst in some New England fans, it is easy to forget that beyond the pinstripes are people, human beings who care.

Which brings us to Ron Johnson, the popular former Sea Dogs manager who is now the first base coach for the Red Sox. Johnson managed at Hadlock Field in the first years of Boston's affiliation with Portland (2004-05). He is a funny man, to be sure, but also a man who takes care of others (which is why players loved playing for him).

Kevin Long did not forget Johnson. Long once played for Johnson, and it was Johnson who helped get him his first coaching job. Now Long is batting coach for the New York Yankees.

When Johnson's daughter, Bridget, lost her leg in a horrible horseback-riding accident late last summer, Long told the Yankees about it. The player immediately got out their checkbooks to help out. Daniel Barbarisi, former Sox beat writer for the Providence Journal, tells the story in the Wall Street Journal.

As for the Yankees-Red Sox game tonight, Boston is reportedly not sending many regulars to the game (although Clay Buchholz is scheduled to start). The rivalry brings back memories of George Steinbrenner, according to Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post.

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases

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