Leyritz visits former Yanks teammates

Leyritz visits former Yanks teammates

TAMPA, Fla. -- Facing DUI manslaughter charges, former Yankees catcher Jim Leyritz visited his former teammates on Sunday at Legends Field.

Leyritz declined to comment to reporters, but he stopped in the tunnel beneath the ballpark to embrace Andy Pettitte and Shelley Duncan. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Leyritz's visit was not a distraction to the team.

"He just wanted to say hi to some old friends," Girardi said. "He was in the area. He's going through a very difficult situation. It's tough."

Leyritz, 44, was arrested on Dec. 28 in Broward County, Fla., on suspicion of drunk driving and vehicular homicide after being involved in a two-car collision that killed another motorist, 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch.

Police said that Leyritz drove his 2006 Ford Expedition through a red light when it collided with Veitch's 2000 Mitsubishi Montero. Veitch was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle.

Leyritz pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge last month. Girardi said he spoke to Leyritz for a few minutes on Sunday and that the former catcher is "going through a hard time."

"I don't think it's a situation anyone would want to be in," Girardi said. "The way I look at it, all of us have probably done things that we regret. Some might be considered worse than others. Obviously, it's a very sad story and situation, but I don't believe you turn your back on people."

Nicknamed "The King," Leyritz played for six Major League teams before ending his 11-year career in 2000, though he often toyed with thoughts of returning to duty as a big league player.

He is best known for his home run in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series against the Braves, which tied the score at 6 in a game the Yankees won in 10 innings. The Yankees defeated the Braves in six games, winning their first World Series title since 1978 and beginning a dynasty under former manager Joe Torre in which New York won four World Series crowns in five seasons.

Girardi, also a catcher on the '96 Yankees, said that he believed Leyritz's visit had been therapeutic for the former teammate.

"It doesn't change what happened," Girardi said. "But support is important."

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