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10/12/06 2:34 AM ET

Yankees try to comprehend tragic news

Stunned teammates reflect on Lidle's passion for flying

NEW YORK -- The news of Cory Lidle's untimely death spread across the country on Wednesday afternoon, shocking and saddening several of his Yankees teammates.

Lidle died in a plane crash on Manhattan's Upper East Side, as a single-engine aircraft he was piloting collided with a high-rise apartment building.

Aaron Guiel, a close friend of Lidle's, learned of the accident Wednesday from his home in Vancouver, B.C. Guiel said that he and Lidle had discussed the pitcher's flight plan over the weekend, as Lidle detailed his journey from New York to Southern California.

"Cory had a passion for flying, it's all he talked about," Guiel said. "I heard about it and said, 'It can't be.' Talking to him, he was so on the ball and conscientious about safety. He knew what he was doing, but he was still going to fly with his instructor.

"It's surreal. For someone that close to me, it's hard to believe it's reality. You don't expect something like this to happen."

Jason Giambi, who was a teammate of Lidle in both Oakland and New York, was also a teammate of the pitcher at South Hills High School in West Covina, Calif.

"Right now, I am really in a state of shock, as I am sure the entire MLB family is," Giambi said in a statement. "My thoughts are with Cory's relatives and the loved ones of the others who were injured or killed in this plane crash.

"I have known Cory and his wife Melanie for over 18 years and watched his son grow up. We played high school ball together and have remained close throughout our careers. We were excited to be reunited in New York this year and I am just devastated to hear this news."

Johnny Damon, who also played with Giambi and Lidle in Oakland and New York, was devastated by the news.

"I am very saddened at the tragic loss of Cory, who was my teammate, and my friend," Damon said. "I cared for him and his family, and my heart goes out to his wife Melanie, and his son Christopher. He was a great person who enjoyed everything in life, and I will really miss him."

Several of Lidle's teammates said that he discussed his favorite hobby often, telling tales of his time in the air. Reliever Mike Myers was scheduled to fly from New York to Atlantic City with Lidle on an off-day last month, but their plans were canceled at the last minute.

"I know Cory had a passion for it and really loved flying," Myers said. "He was excited about his new hobby. It's very tragic. It's hard to believe."

"You hate to hear something that happens like this to a friend and teammate," Scott Proctor said. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family. I'm sure his Yankees family will do anything we can to help them."

Ron Villone was taking his daughter to swim practice when he got a call from his wife. He had heard about the plane crash while eating pizza with his kids, but he had no idea that his teammate was involved in the accident.

"I get to watch my son at soccer practice or baseball practice, and his son doesn't get to have his dad there anymore," Villone said. "That was the first thing I thought about.

"I remember Cory being very wrapped up in anything he did," Villone added. "He took on everything he did with a passion -- baseball, flying, his wife, his son. He would talk about his plane all the time."

Lidle even asked Villone about Teterboro Airport, because Villone hails from New Jersey. Villone told him it was probably the most sensible airport to keep the plane.

"I told him, 'Wow, you're more dedicated than I am. I don't like flying in those planes in the first place, let alone to fly it,'" recalled Villone. "When his mind was set on doing something, he did it."

Cory Lidle: 1972-2006

Mike Mussina was at a loss for words when asked about Lidle, calling the events "strange" and "confusing" to digest.

"It's unfortunate," Mussina said. "I don't even know what to say. It's terrible."

Mussina routinely flies as a passenger on small charter planes, but they are typically flown by former commercial airline pilots or former military pilots. Mussina said that Wednesday's accident won't make him rethink his own decisions.

"I have no ambitions of ever being my own pilot," Mussina said. "I don't think it changes the way I feel about the way I get back-and-forth. Cory was doing it for enjoyment and because he liked to fly, but I do it to get from one place to the next."

Owner George Steinbrenner released a statement through his publicist, Howard Rubenstein.

"This is a terrible and shocking tragedy that has stunned the entire Yankees organization," Steinbrenner said. "I offer my deep condolences and prayers to his wife, Melanie, and son, Christopher, on their enormous loss."

The Yankees released statements from general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Torre and captain Derek Jeter late Wednesday afternoon.

"I am deeply saddened by this tragic event and I ask everyone to keep Cory, his family and all those affected by this tragedy in your prayers," Cashman said.

"This is a terrible shock," Torre said. "I was with Ron Guidry and Lee Mazzilli when I heard the news, and we were just stunned. Cory's time with the Yankees was short, but he was a good teammate and a great competitor. My heart goes out to his family."

"I am shocked by this devastating news," Jeter said. "Spending the last few months as Cory's teammate, I came to know him as a great man. While he was known as a baseball player, he was, more importantly, a husband and father and, at a time like this, I want to share my deepest sympathies with his wife, Melanie, his son, Christopher, and all those who know and loved him."

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