- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. — When fifth-year senior Adam Redd takes the mound at English Field today against Miami, it will be because everything has gone wrong.

Usually a closer, Redd entered the starting rotation when senior David Cross had to have a ligament in his right elbow surgically replaced, commonly known as Tommy John surgery. Redd has been the Sunday starter for the last five weeks or so but was moved up in the order to allow him to attend the funeral of his stepbrother, who was killed in a car accident Saturday — just hours before Redd pitched 52/3 innings in an 8-5 loss to Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla.

Tonight, starting in the toughest and most pressurized game of his life, Redd might help an entire town begin to feel a little better — if only for a few hours.

The 7 p.m. game will be the first athletic event on Virginia Tech’s campus since Monday, when a student gunman killed 32 people and then himself. With the Virginia Tech football program canceling the remainder of spring practice and the annual Maroon and White scrimmage — an event that drew more than 35,000 people last year — the baseball team suddenly has assumed a greater responsibility.

“The only thing I know how to do is coach baseball,” Virginia Tech coach Pete Hughes said. “So I want to do it. And more so from a community standpoint — it’s what the community needs and what the campus needs, for our kids to play baseball again.

“And the community needs to support an athletic team again because that’s how they identify each other as a community and a college.”

Redd’s coach and teammates call him a bulldog, a fierce competitor with an almost impenetrable focus and a desire to win so strong he’s also the Hokies’ cleanup hitter — a rarity among college pitchers.

“As a pitcher, if you lose your emotion, then things could get bad,” he said. “It’s really a game where you just need to stay focused on what you’re doing and take one pitch at a time. … I’m just going to try and do what I always do, just try and tune everything out and focus on that catcher’s glove.”

It has taken the worst imaginable circumstances to put him there, but the clear-eyed righty from Dumfries, Va., might be the best person to lead Virginia Tech back to the diamond.

Lanky and unshaven, Redd is a soft, slow talker, sometimes all but inaudible over the crisp ring of aluminum bats making contact in yesterday’s practice. But the significance of his outing today seems to weigh on him as he hesitates over his words.

“It’s just — yeah, it’s really tough,” he said. “Everybody says they’re not going to be thinking about it, but they really are.”

There will be constant reminders surrounding tonight’s game. Virginia Tech already has received so many requests for media credentials that by Wednesday there were no empty seats in the press box. Hurricanes coach Jim Morris said earlier this week his team will travel with additional security for this weekend’s three-game ACC series. The media frenzy will be sudden and disproportionate for a team that has been dangling at the bottom of the Coastal Division standings, tied with Duke for the fewest conference wins (four) and carrying an overall record of 17-20.

“I think baseball, it’s America’s pastime,” Hughes said. “It’s a security blanket that’s always there for a lot of us. … You saw what happened in 9/11 when baseball was that common ground where people can just go escape and just feel normal again.”

Redd will be at the center of it all.

“He has the will to win, and I know he can do it,” starting catcher Matt Foley said. “And there might not be a better guy for this. ‘Cause there’s not a lot of distractions that can get in that guy’s head.”

Foley was in lockdown in the basement of Cassell Coliseum for several hours Monday morning before being told to sprint to his car and evacuate the campus. Today, he will settle into his crouch behind home plate and gaze into Redd’s hands, hoping his pitcher’s signature slider takes a nasty turn, fooling Miami and maybe giving Virginia Tech something to cheer.

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