Saunders saddened, wants to help

Ex-Va. Tech student Saunders wants to help

OAKLAND -- Angels pitcher Joe Saunders stood, head bowed, on the top step of the visitors' dugout at McAfee Coliseum before Tuesday night's game alongside teammates as a moment of silence was observed in the memory of those lost in Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech University.

The tribute was held before games throughout Major League Baseball.

For Saunders, a student at the school who pitched for the Hokies until he was drafted by the Angels in the first round in 2002, the moment was deeply meaningful. The roots to the campus he loves run deep. Both of Saunders' parents preceeded him to Virginia Tech, and he met his fiancée, Shanel, there.

Saunders, who has plans to return to the school to complete his degree as a consumer science major, learned of the tragedy while the Angels were playing against the Red Sox on Monday. Shaken, Saunders phoned his father from Fenway Park to make sure he was all right, knowing he had an appointment on the campus on Tuesday.

Joe Saunders Jr., who lives about four hours north of the campus in Northern Virginia, is an architect who helped design the Virginia Tech football stadium and regularly commutes to the campus in Blacksburg, Va.

As the Angels reached the West Coast, wrapping up a nine-game road trip in Oakland, Saunders was still coming to grips with the tragedy, sorting things out.

Saunders is planning his own form of tribute when he takes the mound on Friday night at Angel Stadium to face Seattle.

"You can't do anything on your uniform," Saunders said. "I was going to do a black VT on my hat. I'll put a black VT on my cleats, write Virginia Tech [with his cleats] on the back of the mound."

Saunders did an interview with a radio station in Blacksburg on Tuesday.

"I'll make a few phone calls, see what they need," he said, wanting to assist in the recovery process in some fashion.

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.

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 the late Johnny Oates and Franklin Stubbs.

Oates spent 11 seasons as a catcher with five Major League clubs and 11 more as a manager for Baltimore and Texas, winning the American League Manager of the Year Award in 1996 with the Rangers. Stubbs hit 104 homers in a 12-year career with four clubs through 1995.

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