Baseball: Ex-Yankee Leyreitz says wreck wasn’t his fault
MIAMI ó Former major leaguer Jim Leyritz says he has sold off memorabilia because he’s broke, halted charity work because he’s become a social pariah and scattered case files throughout his house, intent on defeating a DUI manslaughter charge.
All of this, the one-time New York Yankee says, for a woman’s death he never could have prevented.
“There was no possibility of me avoiding that crash with all of my senses,” Leyritz told The Miami Herald in a report published Sunday. “A mother was taken away from her kids. I can’t change that. But I didn’t do it. The accident did. And that accident wasn’t my fault.”
Prosecutors say he’s wrong, though he’ll have a chance to plead his case Sept. 14 when he’s scheduled to face trial in connection with a fatal December 2007 crash. Police say Leyritz was drunk when he ran a red light in his SUV and caused the accident that killed 30-year-old Fredia Ann Veitch in Fort Lauderdale. Authorities say Veitch also was drunk.
Whatever comes of the case, it is clear Leyritz’s life has changed forever.
The dining room table at his Plantation home is covered in colored files stuffed with witness testimony and police reports. He has meticulously highlighted thousands of deposition pages. He must breathe into a Breathalyzer machine before starting his car and he has visited the accident scene several times to take photos. Even his bedroom drawers overflow with case files and papers.
“Not healthy,” muttered Jeffrey Ostrow, his friend and attorney.
“It helps,” Leyritz explained. “It reintroduces the truth every day.”
Leyritz likes to be liked, he admits, and that doesn’t come easy anymore.
Former teammates have excluded him from charity efforts he once helped with. His work teaching baseball to local kids was ended by an angry mother who saw him as a monster. Even at church, he has been targeted by reporters.
At Yankee Stadium, he had to pay to attend the closing of the old ballpark and the opening of the new one, and security escorted him from areas he used to roam freely; one guard even threatened to arrest him.
“I hear the whispers. I feel the stares. To listen to people who don’t know the facts hurts, but I can’t help it. I listen,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I go away, sit in my backyard and just break down and cry. People are so wrong about who I am.”
Leyritz is a divorced father of three, though his ex-wife has moved back in to help with the expenses and the children. The 45-year-old played for six teams in 11 major league seasons, including a stint with the Yankees in which he hit a memorable 1996 World Series home run.
As he counts down the days until trial, Leyritz insists he has never had a problem with alcohol.
He can’t change Veitch’s death and says he doesn’t want to disrespect her memory, even as the image of her lying in the road is engraved in his mind forever. What he wants to know is, when will it all be over?
“As the survivor, when are you permitted to move on ó emotionally or in life?” Leyritz asks as his attorney winces. “Ever?”
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