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Virginia Tech tragedy rattles Saunders

Virginia Tech tragedy hits Saunders

BOSTON -- Angels pitcher Joe Saunders found it difficult, if not impossible, to focus on a baseball game at Fenway Park on Monday.

A student at Virginia Tech when he was drafted by the Angels in the first round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, Saunders was shaken by the massacre on the Blacksburg, Va., campus that reportedly claimed more than 30 lives.

"The first thing I did was call my dad [Joseph Francis Saunders Jr.]," Saunders said. "He works down there. He's an architect. My dad was in Northern Virginia. He says he's all right. I'm not sure if he's going to go down there."

Saunders was in uniform for the Angels game with the Red Sox when word arrived of the gunman opening fire.

"I went inside, looked on CNN, and there it was," he said, mentioning familiar campus surroundings. "It hit home pretty good. From being there three, four years ... it blows your mind."

Saunders wasn't sure if any of the students he befriended while at Virginia Tech were still on campus.

"It's been four, five years," he said. "There might be somebody in grad school I knew.

"It's really just unbelievable."

Saunders, a 26-year-old left-hander, had a 27-7 career record at Virginia Tech, his 27 wins tying him for third on the Hokies' all-time list.

He is 1-0 in two starts this season with a 2.92 ERA and is scheduled to make his third start when the Angels return home on Friday to face the Mariners at Angel Stadium.

Saunders is the only product of Virginia Tech currently in the Majors. The school has produced a total of 14 Major Leaguers, including Kevin Barker, a first baseman who appeared in 12 games with the Blue Jays last season.

The school's best-known Major Leaguers are Franklin Stubbs, who hit 104 homers in a 12-year career with four clubs through 1995, and Johnny Oates, the late catcher and manager.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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