When Cory Lidle walked into the New York Yankees’ clubhouse for the first time this summer, Jason Giambi was elated to see his old friend.

The pair were teammates at South Hills High School in West Covina, Calif., and Giambi was among the first to express sadness and condolences Wednesday after the pitcher apparently died when his plane crashed into a Manhattan high-rise condominium.

“Right now, I am really in a state of shock,” Giambi said in a statement. “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.”

Lidle also was mourned by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who lost Yankees captain Thurman Munson in a 1979 plane crash.

“This is a terrible and shocking tragedy that has stunned the entire Yankees organization,” Steinbrenner said.

Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had watched several of Lidle’s games with the Yankees after the team acquired him from Philadelphia on July 30.

“Having seen him pitch for the Yankees in Detroit just four days ago, it is very difficult to comprehend that I was seeing a young man in the prime of his life play his very last game,” Giuliani said.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he was with pitching coach Ron Guidry and bench coach Lee Mazzilli when he heard the news, “and we were just stunned.”

“Corys time with the Yankees was short,” Torre said, “but he was a good teammate and a great competitor. My heart goes out to his family.”

New York Mets coach Manny Acta said he lives in the East Side building that Lidle’s plane crashed into. Unsure whether he would be able to get into the building, Acta said the Mets found him a place to stay.

“It’s not just about him. It’s about the pilot, the co-pilot, and everyone else in the building to think about,” Acta said.

The news arrived at Shea Stadium as the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals prepared for the opener of the NL championship series, which was rained out. Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson was Lidle’s coach with Oakland from 2001-02.

“It’s horrific. I wish I had words. I have no words. I just have very strong emotions and it’s just sadder than sad,” he said. “He stepped up big for us when we needed him.”

Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder described himself as one of Lidle’s good friends from their days in Oakland together, and the two remained golfing buddies. He learned of the news while the team bus was headed to Shea Stadium.

“He started taking the lessons when he was in Oakland,” Mulder said, referring to Lidle’s love for flying. “I think he just started really getting all the hours and stuff, just recently.”

Mets pitcher Billy Wagner was Lidle’s teammate on the Phillies.

“He was always bring his flying manuals into the clubhouse to study,” Wagner said.

Mets infielder Chris Woodward played for Northview High School against Lidle.

“I knew Cory had just gotten his pilot’s license a short time ago. He was pumped up about it,” Woodward said. “He was real popular back home. You don’t realize how much one person affects other people. Everyone knew him, and he was really involved with the community, and he’ll be missed.”

Former teammates also remembered Lidle at the AL championship series in Oakland.

“We would call him ‘Snacks’ because he would eat Reese’s between innings when he was pitching,” Oakland pitcher Barry Zito said. “He’d have Whoppers, ice cream, all while throwing eight scoreless innings.”

Zito said players would be thinking about Lidle as they played Thursday night.

“I’m sure it will be looming and be in everyone’s head, especially the 50 guys in the dugout and the coaching staffs,” he said. “But we have to go on. I’m sure Lidle would want us to go on.”


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