Army brats can make great team players and a Johnny Damon biography would not be complete without mentioning his family's military background. On the cusp of its 27th Major League Baseball championship, the New York Yankees can count on Johnny Damon as a leader, all-star, and supporter of the U.S. Military.
Johnny David Damon was born November 5, 1973 in Fort Riley, Kansas. His mother, Yome, is Thai and his father, Jimmy is an American staff sargent who met his wife while stationed in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The Johnny Damon's family spent much of his early childhood moving among several bases from Okinawa, Japan, to West Germany before his father left the Army and settled the family in Orlando, Florida while Johnny was still a pre-schooler.
For several years, Damon has been known for his support of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), a not-for-profit organization aimed at assisting those men and women of the United States armed forces who have been severely injured during the war on terrorism. He credits his relationship with his father for instilling a sense of appreciation for the military.
"I have deep gratitude for the men and women that have been severely wounded while fighting for our freedoms and way of life," said Damon at a Yankee Stadium pre-game ceremony in 2006 to announce the partnership. "I have visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center and witnessed first-hand the enduring spirits of those recovering. My goal is to ensure their challenges and sacrifices are recognized."
Visitors to the Johnny Damon Foundation website will see a list of appreciative, fans, Vets and VetFamily members grateful for his support.
"The Wounded Warrior Project is deeply thankful for Johnny Damon’s commitment to our organization," said Wounded Warrior Project Founder, John Melia at the same ceremony. "Having the public support of such a well-respected athlete, wearing the legendary Yankees pinstripes, gives a world-wide voice to the severely wounded men and women WWP assists. Our motto is ’The Greatest Casualty is Being Forgotten’ and with Mr. Damon’s support, we will ensure that doesn’t happen."
A Major League All-Star, Johnny Damon’s baseball career began as he attended Phillips High School in Orlando and was part of USA Today’s High School All-American team. In his last year Damon was named Gatorade player of the year.
His sudden success surprised the Damon family, who were busyworking two jobs to make ends meet. “I never saw him play until his senior year,” says Johnny Damon's father, Jimmy Damon, the former Army NCO. “It wasn’t until [Major League Baseball] scouts started to call the house that I had any idea. I just thought he could get a college education out of it.”
Major League Baseball brought Damon back to his place of birth, after the Kansas City Royals drafted him in the 1992 amateur draft. He played for the Royals between 1995 and 2000. In 2001, Johnny Damon joined the Oakland Athletics and later on moved to the Boston Red Sox. He also represented his country in the World Baseball Classic in 2006. The International Olympic Committee voted to eliminate baseball from the 2012 London Olympic Games, leaving the WBC as the only international tournament to feature American professionals.
With the Boston Red Sox Johnny Damon had his greatest on-field accomplishment, helping the Red Sox to the World Championship, breaking the infamous "Babe Ruth curse" after decades of futility for the baseball team. Damon was also well known for his shoulder-length rock-star hairstyle, which ironically began because of his reluctance to cut his hair after a head-on collision in the 2003 American League baseball playoffs. He initially blamed persistent headaches for not wanting to cut his hair, but it later became his signature look.
But after signing with the Yankees in December 2005, he returned to his earlier clean-cut look, adopting the Yankees rule for hair length.
Even with the shorter hair, the Yankees appreciate his impact of his on-field and clubhouse contributions.
"He brings swagger and confidence," said teammate Alex Rodriguez said in an interview with New York Magazine. "He’s different than what’s been here. He says things that need to be said and heard. Before, we didn’t have the type of person who would go out on a limb." And doing it for those who serve, too.