Yankees honored to visit Va. Tech
Tuesday's exhibition game can be seen free on MLB.TV
TAMPA, Fla. -- The itinerary for the Yankees' trip to Virginia Tech includes a visit to the memorial site at Drill Field, where the traveling party will depart from buses and pay its respects to the victims of last April's tragic and senseless shootings.
For the club, Tuesday's benefit exhibition game presents an opportunity to give back.
Following the tragedy, Yankees principal owner George M. Steinbrenner pledged $1 million to the Virginia Tech "Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund," while promising to set aside a date during the 2008 Spring Training schedule to visit the campus and embrace the student body.
"This is something the organization felt was important, and they reached out from Day 1," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think it's important for our guys to see. Most of us have kids; some of us have been on college campuses. I get emotional when I think about it.
"Mr. Steinbrenner has always been a very charitable man. He's always cared about people and so has this organization. I just think he's doing a wonderful thing."
The Yankees are scheduled to play a seven-inning game beginning at 3 p.m. ET, and the contest can be seen for free live on MLB.TV. Louisville Slugger has supplied the university with wooden bats and Major League Baseballs for the contest at English Field, an intimate facility that seats just 1,033.
New York plans to bring its "A" lineup for the exhibition, fielding a roster headlined by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and others to face starter Andrew Wells, a senior left-hander for the Hokies.
Outfielder Hideki Matsui is the only star position player staying behind in Florida due to the possibility of a damp outfield. The rest will be aboard the Yankees' early-morning flight out of Tampa, embarking on their half-day sojourn to Blacksburg, Va.
"All the players are looking forward to it," Jeter said. "Some guys that aren't going wish they could go. I think we're going to enjoy it. Everyone assumes it's an inconvenience because we have to fly up there, but I don't think it will be at all."
For batting practice, the Yankees will wear special maroon and orange 'NY' caps with the Virginia Tech logo on the side, some of which appeared in the clubhouse Monday. During the game, the Yankees will return to their normal blue-colored caps, emblazoned with the VT logo on the side. All headgear worn in the game will be auctioned off for charity.
"The Yankees do a lot of great things," Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon said. "I haven't heard anybody complaining about having to leave Spring Training for a day or so. I think everyone knows the tragedy that they had last year.
"Everyone is real excited to go out there and show them what we have -- sign some autographs and pay our respects."
New York has selected right-hander Jeff Karstens to start the game. Karstens said he recalls watching television news coverage of the April 16 shootings after returning home from a game, wondering how the families affected could cope with such tragedy.
"I remember it very vividly," Karstens said. "It's got to be rough. I can't imagine what those families were going through. I think it's going to be pretty exciting for the ballclub. It should be good for both sides. With all of the stars we have on this team, to do what they're doing for the day is really nice."
Girardi said that he has been looking ahead to the Virginia Tech exhibition since being named the Yankees' manager in November. He hopes that his players will be able to absorb a deeper meaning from the trip after returning to Spring Training on Tuesday evening.
"To me, there's a message," Girardi said. "You never know what tomorrow holds. That campus and those families have been through a lot. It's a tragic story. When you wake up in the morning, it's a blessing. You need to take advantage of it."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.