On Wednesday afternoon, the Virginia Tech Hokies will head to Yankee Stadium to face off against the Maryland Terrapins in the end-of-year Pinstripe Bowl, a showcase that gives college students a chance to breathe in the cavernous dimensions and sparkling amenities of the Bronx to end their season.
But in 2008, it was the Yankees instead who brought their spectacle and grandeur down to Blacksburg, VA, creating a very special connection between their franchise and the Virginia Tech family that some of us may no longer recall.
In response to the campus shooting in April 2007 that killed 32 people, George Steinbrenner had a brainstorm to send the Yankees to scrimmage Tech’s baseball team the following spring, and the Bombers delivered an emotional day that still bonds the two programs.
Instead of partaking in endless bunt drills and wind sprints in sunny Florida, Yankees stars led by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi (the video footage certainly makes it seem as if the entire roster was there) disembarked from the bus and helped to lead the healing process.
With Tech now once again in the Yankee Stadium spotlight — they plan to wear “NY” helmets for Wednesday’s game — fans could certainly use a reminder of just how much these programs mean to each other.
2008 feels like an eternity ago, but that’s fitting, because the bond here is very much eternal.
Remembering Yankees’ 2008 visit to Virginia Tech on Pinstripe Bowl day.
Former Virginia Tech players remain awed by the gesture to this day; first baseman Sean O’Brien recently gave the Yankees just about the best compliment you can give them:
"“For them to come down and do that, I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan and when they play the Yankees I’ll root for the Red Sox, but since then I … never wish ill will on the Yankees, just because of what they did as an organization for Virginia Tech,” former Tech first baseman Sean O’Brien said this week."
If that doesn’t transcend barriers and go beyond baseball, then what does?
From the pageantry down to the pure, human moments, New York’s 2008 visit to campus had a true “Field of Dreams” quality that former Virginia Tech head coach Pete Hughes made it very clear he felt that day.
In footage from the event, it’s beyond clear that luminaries like Jeter and Joe Girardi gave the memorial efforts their very best, in much the same way the Yankees franchise stepped up and into the community after 9/11.
And all of this really did come from the mind of Steinbrenner, whose goodwill gesture also came with a hefty donation to victims’ families.
All this is to say: if you don’t have a rooting interest, strongly consider pulling for the Hokies on Wednesday. They’re literally wearing NY on their helmets for you.