Tech tragedy loomed over Eastern League tilt

Va. Tech products Toregas and Ostlund had friends, family on campus

Akron catcher Wyatt Toregas was a 24th-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2004. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

By Kevin T. Czerwinski / | April 17, 2007 12:49 PM

The tragic shootings that took place Monday at Virginia Tech horrified the nation and tore apart the lives of so many. In the wake of the killings, families across the country scrambled to find out about loved ones that were in Blacksburg, Va. and whether they were injured in the massacre.

Minor League Baseball was not left unaffected by what took place as several players with ties to the university spent hours on the phone or glued to the television hoping to learn the fate of friends and family. The Eastern League was particularly touched by the tragedy with a pair of players meeting Monday evening in Akron as the Aeros and Erie Sea Wolves squared off in a game that suddenly didn't have as much meaning.

Akron catcher Wyatt Toregas and Erie reliever Ian Ostlund are both Virginia Tech products and played Monday's game -- a 6-4 Sea Wolves victory -- with heavy hearts. Toregas was 0-for-1 with two walks and an RBI but Ostlund never got into the game, spending the evening distracted in the bullpen.

"It shocked me," said Ostlund, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2001 after spending three years at the Virginia Military Institute. "I just happened to turn on the TV in morning and I was glued to it. I knew well before the game and when I got to the ballpark, I was still sitting there watching it in my street clothes. I had to turn off the coverage in the locker room because at some point life has to go on and you have to get your game face on.

"I didn't pitch, though. The manager [Matt Walbeck] and the pitching coach [A.J. Sager] seemed like they were looking at my eyes. They didn't talk to me much about it but they could tell my mind was elsewhere because I didn't even get loose. And sitting in the bullpen thinking about it, I got angry."

Both Ostlund and Toregas still have many friends in the athletic department as well as around the Virginia Tech campus. But they were both specifically worried about their sisters, neither of whom was harmed. Toregas' sister didn't have class on Monday but Ostlund's sister was attending class not far from the dormitory in which the original shootings took place.

"I was getting calls from everyone," Ostlund said. "My mom was running in the Boston Marathon and my dad was with her. I was on the phone with him relaying information to him. It was a happy day for my mom but I had to keep giving him grim information. He has a lot of friends who have kids at Tech and one of them is in the engineering program. We still don't know if his son was one of those hurt.

"And my wife works at Merck [in Virginia] and one of the shift chemists there has a son at Tech who got hurt jumping out of a window to avoid it [the gunfire]. So I'm not very far removed. Other guys on the team were concerned and distraught, but for me it was more personal."

Toregas, who was drafted by the Indians in the 24th round in 2004, played three seasons at Virginia Tech. His mind was eased some after speaking with his sister, but he was disturbed to learn that one of his friends got the windshield of his car shot out. Luckily, he was in class at the time.

"For a couple of hours I was trying to get a hold of people," Toregas said. "The athletes for all the teams were accounted for but my buddy who is in his fifth year down there had his car window hit by a stray bullet. This situation is hard to deal with. It's unbelievable.

"I got the start last night and it was already a tough day to play because of the weather. Throw Virginia Tech on top of it and it was a tough day all the way around."

Both players were back on the field Tuesday preparing for another game. Clearly it was difficult to keep things in perspective.

"I can't express enough the amount of sorry I feel for the families who lost sons and daughters and husbands and wives," Ostlund said. "When something like this happens, it puts a deep rift in the hearts of the families. What it would take to fill that void, I can't tell you. I just want to say how sorry I am and that they will always be in my thoughts and prayers."

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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