Yankees at Virginia Tech
About a year ago, tragedy hit the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia. Support and relief came from all across the country to the stunned Hokie community. Soon after the developments from the campus, the Yankees and owner George Steinbrenner donated a cool $1 million to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund to help rebuild the community. The Yankees also promised to use an off day the next spring to bring their team up to VT and play a scrimmage against the Hokie baseball team.And yesterday, true to their word, nearly every notable Yankees boarded a plane and flew up to participate in not only the baseball game, but the continuing healing of a fractured community.
Jeter was near the front of the group. He moved slowly, peering at each stone. Then he came upon the No. 2 jersey that had been placed next to a stone near the end. “I just wanted him to see it,” said Marcy Crevonis, a 19-year-old sophomore, who put the shirt beside the stone honoring her slain fiancé, Michael Pohle of New Jersey. Jeter saw it. Then he saw Crevonis standing nearby. She was wearing a Yankees shirt with a picture of Pohle screened on the back, and she turned around to show it to Jeter. “Would you sign on his face?” she said, and he obliged. When she asked for a picture, he agreed again, but said he would do it only if she smiled.
“And she did smile,” he said later.
That’s just one example of what the Yankees did for the people of Blacksburg. The Yankees won the game 11-0, but in a sense, everybody won yesterday. Some things transcend baseball, are bigger than the game. The game yesterday isn’t what mattered, what did matter is that the Yankees went and gave people who have been going though a tough time a reason to smile again. Cervonis told ESPN that her fiance had been a Phillies fan, “but he’d have been a Yankee fan today.”I’d like to share a letter with you that the Yankees received prior to the game.
As someone who lives in Roanoke and has many lifelong ties to Virginia Tech, I want to thank you for the coverage leading up to today’s exhibition game between Virginia Tech and the Yankees. I’ve been a Yankee fan over fifty years now, since I was a six-year old boy in 1956, and I’ve never been prouder of the organization in my life. For those who live elsewhere, I can honestly say that this game truly has had and is having a positive and healing effect on our community.
The horrible events of last April can never be erased from our collective consciousness, but out of this tragedy so many acts of courage and kindness have sprung that one cannot help but be moved by such a widespread show of support. George Steinbrenner has frustrated and angered me on more than one occasion through the years, but the immediate and heartfelt response of him, his sons, and the Yankee organization truly touched me.
One of my buddies, a Tech grad and diehard Red Sox fan (and diehard is too weak a description), is the person who called me with the news last year that the Yanks were coming and that George had donated a million dollars to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. His voice was choked with emotion, and he was crying. “I take back everything I’ve ever said about George Steinbrenner” he said, “and I will never say a hateful thing about him or the Yankees again. But I’m still calling you when the Sox beat them, OK?”So far he’s kept his word.
There have certainly been times during my Yankee fanhood where I have not been proud of what players or the organization have done, but I have never been prouder of my team than I was yesterday.While some teams are complaining about not getting an extra $40,000 – other teams are delivering healing to a damaged community. I have a feeling that yesterday will be a day that not a lot of people from that community will soon forget. Hopefully, the Yankee players won’t forget it either. The Yankees signed every autograph, Johnny Damon hugged the Hokie mascot and Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes, a Red Sox fan from Massachusetts, said he will never look at the Yankees the same way again. One of his kids was running around the field wearing a Red Sox shirt with a Yankees jersey over it.
Recovering from the type of disaster that struck that campus is certainly something that doesn’t happen overnight. While the Yankees can’t possibly erase the terrible feelings that many of those people probably still have, they certainly did a lot to ease the pain and help people get back to living life they way they did before their world was shattered.
After about the fourth inning, most of the Yankee starters came out of the game and went across the field to hang out with the Hokie players in their dugout for the rest of the game. A-Rod joked around with them, asking them trivia questions for his bats and gloves. No one left the park without an autograph. VT second baseman Matt Hacker summed up the day perfectly.
“It was everything everybody wanted it to be.”