Ailing Monahan positive about prognosis

NEW YORK -- Gene Monahan started his Opening Day with a radiation treatment, and punctuated it with the thrill of his distinguished baseball life.

The longtime Yankees trainer, who told ESPNNewYork.com he is suffering from throat and neck cancer, received an extended standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd immediately following Joe Girardi's introduction, when Monahan was called onto the field during the pregame ring ceremony.

With Monahan standing near first base, and with Jorge Posada asking host Michael Kay of 1050 ESPN Radio to delay the rest of the introductions, Posada and his teammates moved to the dugout railing and joined the fans' salute as an emotional Monahan waved and patted his heart.

"The toughest part of this has been missing my family here," said the 65-year-old Monahan, who has worked in the Yankees organization for 48 years and was making his 38th consecutive Opening Day appearance with the big club.

"This particular group is very special because it looks out for each other, and they certainly looked out for me. Everybody stayed in touch, they sent me videos, and they told me to stay strong.

"I didn't want to come. I didn't want to be a distraction. I didn't want to be in the way, but I got convinced by everybody it was important to stop by and say hello and let the guys know I'm here to help out in any way I can until I get back."

Monahan said that he had surgery in January to remove his tonsils, and that he's been undergoing treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He endured his latest treatment Tuesday morning before arriving at the Stadium.

"I finish my radiation next Monday; it will be my 30th radiation," Monahan said. "I'll see my surgeon six weeks after I'm done with that, and then we're off to our next point of attack.

"I've got a good prognosis and I'm very optimistic. I just want to get back to work with these guys and contribute and see what we can do this summer. I think we've got a great chance and a great bunch."

Monahan said that he's been receiving a daily injury report from his assistant, Steve Donohue, and that he's fielded encouraging calls and text messages from the likes of Posada, Girardi, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia and Reggie Jackson.

"The last three or four days have been tough, and I've still got a long way to go," Monahan said. "But I'm very positive about beating this."

Ian O'Connor is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.