BLACKSBURG, Va. — The crowd of 5,500 at Virginia Tech's English Field grew silent on Tuesday as 32 large orange balloons were released.
Each was meant to symbolize a victim lost on April 16, when Tech student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people on the campus before committing suicide. The pregame memorial had solemn moments but brightened as each of the Virginia Tech and Yankees starters was introduced. Then, as fans watched the Yankees defeat the Hokies, 11-0, it was time for smiles and cheers. And that is what the Yankees hoped to provide, an afternoon when the Virginia Tech community could forget its problems and enjoy life for a few hours.
"That was fun, huh?" Hokies coach Pete Hughes said. "That's a lifetime experience for them."
It was an experience that will leave lasting memories with the Yankees as well. Manager Joe Girardi teared up during his postgame news conference when he recalled an encounter early in the game. Girardi managed part of the game from the stands, where he visited with Tech football coach Frank Beamer. While Girardi talked with Beamer, he was approached by a young woman.
"Her brother was one of the children killed," a red-eyed Girardi said, "and her mother wanted her to thank us for being here, and that really hit me hard."
The Yankees and Virginia Tech players mingled during batting practice, with the Hokies getting autographs and snapping photos.
"This is a dream come true, 100 percent," Hokies pitcher Kyle Cichy of Vineland, N.J., said. "You want to be like these guys your whole life, and now we're playing on the same field with them. … But nobody's going to forget why we're playing this game."
JOBLESS BONDS INTERESTS UNION: The lack of offers to Barry Bonds will be examined by the players' association as part of its annual review of the free-agent market. The home run king, 43, is unsigned less than two weeks before opening day, though the Rays have acknowledged having talks about pursuing him.
"He's in playing shape right now. He just hasn't hit off live pitching," Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, said. "It would probably take him about two weeks to get ready."
OBITUARY: Bob Purkey, who pitched in three All-Star Games and one World Series with the Reds, died Sunday in Bethel Park, Pa. He was 78. Mr. Purkey was 129-115 with a 3.79 ERA over 13 seasons with the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals, last appearing in a game in 1966. He pitched a complete game in Cincinnati's 3-2 loss to the Yankees in Game 3 of the 1961 World Series.
CUBS: Right-hander Kerry Wood, the front-runner for the closer's job, will pitch back-to-back games for the first time today and Thursday.
ORIOLES: George Sherrill was picked to be the closer. The one-time situational left-hander spent the first four years of his professional career toiling in independent leagues.
PHILLIES: Left-hander Cole Hamels had easily his best spring outing in the 4-2 win over the Rays, pitching six strong innings and retiring the first 14 batters before Evan Longoria homered in the fifth. He gave up one run and two hits and struck out seven. But the All-Star still saw room for improvement. "I have a few more miles per hour to go on my fastball before I'm up to par," Hamels said.
REDS: Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who signed for a shot at the starting rotation, is headed back to the bullpen after a rough spring as a starter. He's looking at a role similar to last year with the NL champion Rockies, as a late-inning lefty.
RED SOX: Right-hander Curt Schilling will travel to Tokyo today despite being on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder injury that is expected to sideline him at least half the season. Schilling doesn't count against the 30-man roster for the two exhibition games.
Best bet of the day
Pirates vs. Yankees, 7:05 p.m., McKechnie Field, Bradenton: The Pirates will play their first official night game at McKechnie Field, one of the best places to catch a spring training game. The Yankees throw one of their top young pitchers, Phil Hughes.