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[MLB] VT Hokies vs. NY Yankees


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Yanks play Va. Tech to ease pain of Hokies' tragedy

Like most major leaguers, the New York Yankees don't get too excited about Grapefruit League games, especially when a bus trip is involved.

Tuesday's spring training road trip will be different.

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees will board a bus at their Tampa, Fla., training complex to catch a flight to Virginia, then bus to Blacksburg for an exhibition game they all want to play. The Bronx Bombers vs. the Virginia Tech Hokies.

"All the players are looking forward to it," Jeter said Monday. "The players that can't go want to. I'm sure it will be emotional, especially for the student body."

It was 11 months ago this college town became the focus of a horrified nation after a gunman killed 32 people on campus, and then himself.

People around the world rallied behind Virginia Tech and the community, and the Yankees were among the organizations that offered overwhelming support, donating $1 million to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund and asking if they could come play a game.

They'll do it Tuesday afternoon in a stadium packed with 3,000 students who won a lottery for tickets, 1,000 faculty and staff, and victims of last April 16th.

Virginia Tech coach Peter Hughes still gets choked up when he thinks about that day, and the one coming.

"Everywhere in life we've got guys that talk and guys that do things," the second-year Hokies coach said. "And when the Yankees call and say, 'Hey, we want to help out. We've got to do something. Here's our idea: We want to come play and here's a million dollars.' How proactive is that? It blows you away, their generosity."

The Yankees have their own history with massive tragedy, playing in the same city where the attacks on the World Trade Towers claimed thousands of lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

"I really had a new appreciation for life after that," Jeter said. "I think it brings attention to how precious life is. You realize it's going to be a special trip and you can't take anything for granted. This really puts things in perspective."

The Yankees aren't just coming to the ballpark. The first stop their bus will make on campus will be at the memorial for the victims of the shootings.

"I think it's important for guys to see it," first-year manager Joe Girardi said. "I get emotional thinking about it. Wake up in the morning, it's a blessing."

The Hokies baseball team was the school's first team to play after the shootings on April 16.

Nearly a year later, Hughes said, the pain for many is still fresh and new.

"It's part of everybody's daily actions and thoughts," he said. "You know, you're looking at 32 victims, but you're looking at 32 times the sets of parents and children and friends and relatives. It's so encompassing, and to have the Yankees want to come be part of the healing process and do it on your campus, ... it's unbelievable."

That's surely how it will be for the Hokies players, too, getting to schmooze with and compete against some of the biggest names in the major leagues.

"It will be a lifetime memory," Hughes said. "They'll be leaning on the batting cage 2 feet away from Derek Jeter and A-Rod taking BP. You can't even make that up."

For Hughes, a Brockton, Mass., native and avid Red Sox fan, the lighter side of the day -- the game itself -- will present challenges, not the least of which is how to cope with the request by his Red Sox fan sons to be the bat boys for the visiting team.

"It's going to be hard," he admitted, "to root against the Yankees ever again."

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Just an IMO, but while it's a nice story, I have to wonder if that's really why the game was scheduled... a ton of MLB teams play college teams in the off-season/pre-season.

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I went to the game and of course we lost miserably, but still the game was perfect. Cashman took a picture with me and I got a few autographs. The game was a great showing of the Yankees generosity. Being a braves fan myself I never rooted for the Yankees but after the game I definitely have more respect for all of them.

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Just an IMO, but while it's a nice story, I have to wonder if that's really why the game was scheduled... a ton of MLB teams play college teams in the off-season/pre-season.

They announced it two days after the 4/16 tragedy. So yes, that was the reason. They wanted to do this as a tribute to the players. They also donated $1,000,000 to the school's fund for the victims and the victims' families.

Being a braves fan myself I never rooted for the Yankees but after the game I definitely have more respect for all of them.

I've been a life long Yankee fan, my entire family has been for 60+ years. I've always had a huge amount of respect for them simply because of their charity work. Other teams do stuff, but no where near to the extent that the Yankees do.

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For Yanks and Hokies, a Game to Remember

The buses wound through the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking the Yankees from the airport in Roanoke to the heart of a campus changed forever last April. Fans cheered from the sidewalks at Virginia Tech, snapping pictures and waving. If the players looked out the windows, they could see decals of memorial ribbons on the backs of many cars.

The buses stopped at Drill Field, the memorial site for the 32 victims of a gunman?s rampage 11 months ago. The players and staff members, led by the Yankees? general partner, Hal Steinbrenner, walked solemnly in a semicircle, past the stone markers for the dead.

Derek Jeter was the first player off his bus. Near the far edge of the memorial was the stone for Michael Pohle, a biochemistry major from Flemington, N.J. On the ground beside it was a T-shirt with Jeter?s name and number. A young woman named Marcy Crevonis stepped from the crowd.

?Derek, do you mind if I take a picture by my fianc??s stone?? she said. ?I won?t cry, I promise.?

Jeter said he has felt like this before, after Sept. 11, when he wondered how baseball players could possibly help people recover from devastation. He still does not know, he said. Maybe they could simply make them smile.

Jeter told Crevonis she could have the picture if she smiled. She did.

?That?s part of the reason that we?re here,? Jeter said.

As the principal owner George Steinbrenner watched coverage of the massacre last April, he was moved to help Virginia Tech. Steinbrenner donated $1 million to a memorial fund and asked team officials to arrange an exhibition game on campus.

As a resident of Florida, Hal Steinbrenner said, he will always remember 1990, when a serial killer murdered five students at the University of Florida. But the Yankees had no direct tie to Virginia Tech.

?The tragedy was of such great proportion that it didn?t matter if there was a connection between the Yankees and Virginia Tech prior to the event,? said Randy Levine, the Yankees president. ?We all had to rally around these brave people.?

Manager Joe Girardi said his eyes welled when the team visited the memorial. Girardi, whose flight here was his first with the Yankees as manager, said there was an intangible benefit for his players. The team has no off days on its exhibition schedule, but took a powerful break from routine.

?We?re trying to do something as a club, as in win a championship, and to me, this should move you to do everything you can to reach your goals, because you never know what tomorrow?s going to hold ? for any of us,? Girardi said. ?I think it?s something our players will talk about for a long time.?

That could certainly be said for the Virginia Tech players, who had lost eight games in a row and are 0-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. For a day, English Field was the place to be. The university added temporary bleachers to hold 2,500 extra fans.

Players congregated around the Yankees during batting practice, collecting autographs in silver pen on maroon-and-orange Yankees caps. Johnny Damon hugged the Hokie Bird mascot. Girardi gave 50 signed lineup cards to the baseball coach, Pete Hughes, and later sat in the stands with the university?s football coach, Frank Beamer.

Girardi said he met a woman whose brother was killed in the shooting. She thanked Girardi for coming. ?That really hit me hard,? he said.

The Hokies? starter was Andrew Wells, a sixth-year senior captain. He had read a Yankees scouting report in the local paper from Joe Saunders of the Angels, the only Virginia Tech alumnus in the majors. Saunders suggested the pitchers be aggressive.

But Wells is not a prospect, and he said he had not made a strong recovery from elbow surgery. He walked Damon on four pitches and loaded the bases with no outs for Alex Rodriguez.

?I?m scared to throw to him,? Wells said before the game. ?But it?s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If I throw to the first nine guys and they all hit home runs, I can say I gave up nine home runs to the Yankees.?

With a stiff wind, the Yankees hit no home runs. Rodriguez flied to right to drive in a run, and Jason Giambi?s double-play grounder ended the inning. The Hokies poured onto the field to swarm their grinning pitcher.

?Seeing how their players just were pumped to have little moments like that that would last their whole lives ? that was nice, that was neat,? Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. ?It was fun for our guys to see that.?

After he left the game, Rodriguez sat on the Hokies? bench for half an inning, signing autographs and talking baseball. He said the day was one of his proudest as a Yankee.

?Arguably, this is the most important game I?ve played in my Yankees career, because it makes you realize the important things in life and realize how fragile life can be,? Rodriguez said. ?We?re all very proud to be here.?

The Yankees won, 11-0, but the score was an afterthought. Kyle Cichy, a pitcher from Vineland, N.J., called it the best day of his life. Cichy transferred into Virginia Tech this fall and said people told him he was crazy. But the community here is knit closely.

Theresa Walsh, a former soccer player from Binghamton, N.Y., was in class at Norris Hall when she heard gunshots last April 16. She escaped to a hallway, where the gunman shot at her and missed. She graduated in May and was at the field Tuesday.

Life will never be the same here, Walsh said, but there can be a new state of normalcy. The Yankees? visit was difficult for the memories it stirred, but welcomed for the respite from grief it provided.

?The Yankees can help in all sorts of ways,? Walsh said. ?Help us heal. Help us overcome this.?

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They announced it two days after the 4/16 tragedy. So yes, that was the reason. They wanted to do this as a tribute to the players. They also donated $1,000,000 to the school's fund for the victims and the victims' families.

Well, they did announce it was for the VT thing, my bad, but it wasn't two days after:

http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/news/press_...sp&c_id=nyy

http://www.planetblacksburg.com/2007/05/ya...memorial_fu.php

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Would Yankees let Hokies win? Probably not, Yankees will probably Destory the Hokies like 100-0 or something.

Even against the Pros, Yankees is the Best team, so I forsee a HUGE score like 100 for Yankees and not much for Hokies, if any at all against Yankee's Hot pitching/Defense/Offense lineup!

So, I don't understand how that is gonna Ease VT's pain? A Huge loss?

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Would Yankees let Hokies win? Probably not, Yankees will probably Destory the Hokies like 100-0 or something.

So, I don't understand how that is gonna Ease VT's pain?

They played two days ago now. Yankees won 11-0. But it doesn't matter though. The day wasn't about playing to win or lose, it was about a team coming to show support for a community still trying to heal from a traumatic event. And from what I've heard from friends who go to VT (I live about 45 minutes away from the campus) everyone had a blast on Tuesday even though they lost, they all say it will be a day they will not soon, if ever, forget.

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Oh they played this already? And it was only 11? I thought there definitely would be more points than that.

Good job Hokies, or maybe Yankees won't make the playoffs This year.

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Oh they played this already? And it was only 11? I thought there definitely would be more points than that.

Good job Hokies, or maybe Yankees won't make the playoffs This year.

The Hokies have a great baseball team, nothing major, but they're biggest problem was pitching from what I saw. But 11-0 is still pretty good considering most games in the major leagues never get to that.

But that wasn't the point of the game, like I said. The point was to have fun and enjoy the day.

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Dude, Yankees usually score THAT many points All the time against the other pro teams.

And, I looked up, VT is not that good in baseball, certainly NOT in the top 25.

Maybe they are giving VT some mercy, I don't know

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Dude, Yankees usually score THAT many points everyday against the pro teams.

Maybe they are giving VT some mercy, I don't know

You've got to remember that we're in Spring Training, they never put themselves in a situation where they could get injured, so they don't give 100%.

Scores thus far from this month:

W 9-3

T 7-7

W 7-6

W 2-0

L 5-7

L 8-12

L 5-9

L 1-4

W 6-4

W 4-0

W 6-1

L 6-7

L 3-5

T 7-7

W 11-7

L 2-7

W 7-6

W 8-4

W 11-0

W 12-9

W 7-2

It isn't easy to get 11 scores in a baseball game and the Yankees, even as good as they are, don't do it on a regular basis. I know, I watch every single game (record them on my DVR and watch them at night) because I have the sports package for DirecTV.

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