Gio Urshela paying it forward after COVID scare of his own
The plan called for Gio Urshela to fly from his native Colombia to New York on Oct. 29 and have a bone chip surgically removed from his right elbow three days later. Until 2020 got in the way once again.
“Then I got COVID in Colombia,” the Yankees third baseman revealed to The Post on Tuesday at a group lunch in Manhattan’s Core Club. “That’s why I had to stay there, for quarantine. I stayed there in Colombia because I got COVID.”
He’s better now; you probably know that he underwent that procedure Friday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, and he’s spending a few weeks here undergoing treatment and partaking in some early physical therapy — and, having experienced this horrendous disease firsthand, working to prevent others in his home country from getting it.
The 29-year-old described his novel coronavirus experience as rough but relatively brief: “I had a lot of symptoms. Fever, chills, headaches. My body felt tired. I lost my sense of smell and taste.”
His girlfriend, Danna Delgado, a Colombian journalist, also contracted the illness, he said, although his parents, Alvaro and Uldy Urshela, with whom he lives in his home country, thankfully didn’t. He believes he caught the novel coronavirus from a friend in Colombia.
Asked if he was scared, Urshela said, “Not really, because that was only for three days and then I was good. Then I had to wait to test negative.”
He had returned home believing he wouldn’t need surgery for the ailment that put him on the injured list Sept. 4-14; he had first aggravated the elbow in mid-August at home against the Rays, he said, and then worsened it Sept. 3 at the Mets.
“I was feeling good when the season ended,” Urshela explained, crediting a cortisone shot. However, after being in Colombia a couple of weeks, “I started feeling the bone chip, like I had something there.”
And he realized he didn’t want to enter 2021 with his health in question. COVID hit him shortly after that.
The delay for the surgery could impact Urshela’s readiness for the 2021 season, given that the Yankees announced a three-month recovery period for him. Then again, odds stand as low that spring training will start on time as the COVID vaccine deliberately makes its way through the country and the world. Yet even if the season does begin as scheduled, with the Yankees supposed to open at home against the Blue Jays on April 1, Urshela thinks he can ramp up in time for that.
“Let’s see how it’s going,” he said, with confidence in his voice.
His surgically repaired elbow featured no sling at lunch — just a wrap under his long sleeves, he explained — and Urshela tenderly rotated the wing to further exemplify that the damage wasn’t too bad. He mostly rested his elbow on a pillow as he expressed good cheer alongside his parents, Delgado, Yankees community consultant Ray Negron, New York philanthropist Alfred Zaccagnino and a few others.
After Urshela worked through the worst of COVID, he contacted Negron, whom he has joined in many community endeavors, including the distributing of hand sanitizer in The Bronx this past year. Negron connected Urshela with Zaccagnino, the CEO of H2One Hand Sanitizer, who is in the process of shipping 36,000 bottles each of his product to Colombia and Venezuela, where Urshela’s Yankees teammate Gleyber Torres is similarly aiding his countrymen and women.
“I wanted to help the poor people in Colombia that might not be able to buy [sanitizer], so that’s a little helpful for them,” Urshela said.
For his community-service efforts domestically and internationally, Urshela will receive a Thurman Munson Award at the annual Munson Dinner, which will be held virtually on Feb. 2 of next year. Negron, a Yankees batboy in the 1970s, shared with Urshela the tales of the fallen Yankees captain.
“[Negron] told me about what [Munson] did for the community,” Urshela said. “It’s a good example to follow.”
He sounded grateful that he’s healthy enough, the throwing elbow notwithstanding, to follow such an example. To move on from COVID and 2020 while enabling others to do the same.