Virginia Tech football pays tribute to Yankees with Pinstripe Bowl helmet

New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium

The Hokies’ maroon and orange helmets will get a New York Yankees-inspired makeover as they do battle in The Bronx.

The Virginia Tech Hokies have been designated the home team for Wednesday afternoon’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium (2:15 p.m. ET, ESPN). Less than 24 hours before kickoff, they showcased their willingness to look the part.

When the Hokies take the field on Wednesday against Maryland, their maroon and orange helmets, often adorned with an interlocking “VT”, with be joined by the united “NY” that often appears on the Yankees’ pinstriped uniforms and navy caps over the summer.

The Hokies’ descent upon Yankee Stadium for its first appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl has invoked memories of the bond they built with the Bronx Bombers following the tragic shooting on the Blacksburg campus in April 2007. New York would make a sizable donation to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. During the ensuing spring training season in 2008, the Yankees visited Blacksburg for a seven-inning exhibition game at the Hokies’ baseball stadium of English Field.

“That (game) symbolized that 11 months later, we’re still healing but we’re moving forward and there’s people that have our back,” Anthony Sosnoskie, the Hokies catcher that afternoon, told Mark Berman of The Roanoke Times in a retrospective. “We all as a collective unit really appreciated what they did for us that day.”

As the designated home team for Wednesday’s game, Virginia Tech (6-6) will be stationed in the Yankees’ locker room. Each team’s fanbase also shares the love of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”: the song often signaled the insertion of legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera into close games while it has also been used when the Hokies take the field at Lane Stadium since 2000.

The Hokies are looking to end their season on the right note after what’s been a tough season following an upset triumph over preseason No. 10 North Carolina on Sept. 3. It was a year that saw them bid farewell to head coach Justin Fuente after six years at the helm. They’re nonetheless back in a bowl game after last season’s opt-out of postseason proceedings, which ended the fourth-longest streak of bowl game appearances in college football history at 27 seasons. They’ll face off against their former Big Ten brother Maryland (6-6), which is likewise seeking a winning campaign, which would be their first since their inaugural Big Ten outing in 2014.

Wednesday marks the seventh Pinstripe Bowl showcasing an ACC-Big Ten matchup, with last year’s game canceled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous winners of the David C. Koch MVP Award (named after the late CEO of game sponsor New Era) include Zack Martin (Notre Dame, 2013) and Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin, 2018), each of whom has built prolific NFL careers with Dallas and Indianapolis respectively.

Yankee Stadium is one of four active baseball stadiums to host a college bowl game: while both the Holiday Bowl (at San Diego’s Petco Park) and the inaugural Fenway Bowl (Boston’s Fenway Park) were each canceled in the wake of the ongoing health crisis, Minnesota topped West Virginia 18-6 in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field in Arizona on Tuesday night.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Meet the (Draft) Class of 2020

The draft dust has settled, and the New York Liberty have emerged with several young players to begin a new era.

The New York Liberty might well be America’s oldest expansion team at this rate.

New York’s WNBA franchise looks a tad different than it did a week ago, literally and figuratively. The team unveiled a new logo and uniform this week and later dealt franchise face Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics for extra draft capital. When they do get back to basketball, the Liberty will also make themselves a new home: Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. On Tuesday, the Liberty also bid farewell to Brittany Boyd, one of their longest-tenured players.

Speaking of Friday’s WNBA Draft (witness by 837,000 viewers), the Liberty were immediately able to fill Charles’ empty slot of franchise face with the addition of Oregon guard Sabrina Ionescu. What do you need to know about Ionescu and her new comrades? ESM has you covered…

1st Round (1st overall): G Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon

Lottery ping-pong balls finally bounced New York’s way, leading them to one of the most electrifying players in college basketball history. Ionescu hopefully has a large carry-on bag for her eventual flight to New York, as she’ll be hauling plenty of hardware to Brooklyn. Her most recent accolades include the Player of the Year honors from the Associated Press and the Pac-12 (her third in the latter category), matching perfectly with the NCAA’s all-time lead in triple-doubles (26). When we get back to shooting again, Ionescu’s New York arrival has a chance to change not just a premier franchise, but a league entirely.

1st Round (9th overall): F Megan Walker, Connecticut

What’s a draft without representation from Storrs? With the first pick obtained in the Charles transaction, the Liberty went with one of the few early entries in Walker. Her breakout junior year paced the team with 19.7 points, and she also tallied 8.4 rebounds en route to first-team All-American honors. Walker’s scoring prowess should help a Liberty squad that struggled to consistently score in the latter stages of last season.

1st Round (10th overall): F Jocelyn Willoughby, Virginia

The Charles trade indirectly yielded the arrival of Willoughby, as the Liberty dealt the contract of former Mystic Shatori Walker-Kimbrough to Phoenix for the rights to Willoughby. Some were surprised to see Willoughby go in the top ten, but her flexibility could turn her into a diamond-in-the-rough selection. One of Willoughby’s greatest qualities is her ability to get to the foul line. Over the second half of the season, the Liberty averaged less than 15 foul shots per game. Willoughby reached double-digits on her own in six games of her senior season.

1st Round (12th overall): G Jazmine Jones, Louisville

With the second pick acquired in the Charles move, the Liberty opted to take one of Asia Durr’s Cardinal teammates. No one has appeared in more games in Louisville red than Jones, who reached the All-ACC and All-ACC defensive teams. Her shooting needs some work, but Jones nearly doubled her career scoring average in her senior campaign (14.1 PPG, good for second on the team).

2nd Round (13th overall): F Kylie Shook, Louisville

Ionescu is trying to forget the exploits of Shook, who paced the Cardinals with a double-double (18 points, 15 rebounds) in a head-to-head matchup last November that saw Louisville gave Oregon their only loss. More impressive may be Shook’s defensive abilities. She took the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and departs KFC Yum! Center as the program’s all-time leader in blocks.

2nd Round (15th overall): F Leaonna Odom, Duke

Another strong defensive talent from the ACC, Odom’s versatility (able to the one-through-four) and length (6’2 with a 27.5 vertical) makes her a solid defensive find in the second round. The versatility was on perfect display when she appeared on watchlists for the Katrina McClain and Cheryl Miller awards (earned by the nation’s top power forward and small forward respectively).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags