Yankees Pay Homage to Va. Tech Victims

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- The New York Yankees made a pilgrimage Tuesday to the Virginia Tech memorial dedicated to the campus shooting victims.

Along with about 200 onlookers, the Yankees viewed 32 stone memorials to the victims of the shooting rampage on April 16 at the Blacksburg campus.

The players were dressed in street clothes as they filed past the stones, then paused to look toward the classroom building where all but two of the gunman's victims were slain.

Tech President Charles Steger briefly addressed the players. The Yankees were to play Virginia Tech later Tuesday in an exhibition game.

In May, the Yankees made a $1 million contribution to the Virginia Tech "Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. "

The fund is designed to cover grief counseling, memorials and other costs for the victims and their families. Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in two campus buildings before committing suicide.

Students who came to see the Yankees said the players will help the healing process on campus.

"It gets our minds off what happened for a while," said Led Smith, a sophomore from Parsippany, N.J.

Alex Rodriguez said visiting the memorial was powerful.

"There are certain things that happen that are so devastating that time stops," he said. "For me, this is one of them. This is probably the proudest day I've ever (had) to wear a Yankee uniform."

Derek Jeter also attended the event and will play in the exhibition.

"People always ask, 'Well, what can you do? How does this help?' I really don't know," Jeter said. "If it just makes people smile or enjoy themselves for the three hours that we're here, it's all worthwhile."

Matt Weaver, a sophomore from Springfield, Va., said he and his father attended the Yankees game against the Boston Red Sox when the $1 million gift was announced.

He said that experience made him realize how many people were affected by the mass shootings.

Dave Wechtaluk, of Elmira, N.Y, was impressed by the generosity of George Steinbrenner and the presence of the Yankees.

Wechtaluk, whose wife is a faculty member and son attends Tech, was happy about the visit for the students' sake.

"You look at these young people. They've grown up awfully fast," he said.

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AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz in Blacksburg, Va., contributed to this report.

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