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A pitcher's passion for flying held his tragic fate

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(CNN) -- As a pitcher new to the New York Yankees, Cory Lidle was a man whose career came with pressure.

On Wednesday, the 34-year-old died doing what he said gave him peace and freedom from that pressure -- flying.

In a video that captured Lidle piloting a small aircraft in April near Philadelphia where he formerly pitched for the Phillies, he smiled and seemed at ease behind the controls.(Watch Lidle enjoy flying -- 3:10 Video)

He told a reporter, "[Up] here, you don't think about baseball. It's something that takes you away from everyday life."

Lidle likened getting his pilot's license to being 16 and getting a driver's license. The feeling is "the same," he said, "times 100."

The plane Lidle flew for that story was not same kind of aircraft that carried the ball player and a flight instructor to their death Wednesday afternoon when it slammed into a Manhattan residential high-rise.(Read the full story about crash igniting fears of terrorism)

No residents were injured at the Belaire, a 50-story brick building at 72nd Street and York Avenue near the East River.

The flight instructor's name was not released pending the notification of family, officials said.

Two bodies were found on the street, emergency responders told CNN. Lidle's passport was also discovered among the burning wreckage on the sidewalk next to the Belaire.

The pitcher had just finished the 2006 season with a 12-10 record. Over the course of his nine-year career, Lidle amassed an 82-72 record. He was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Yankees in July 2006. He called his fraternal twin brother Kevin Idle, who lives in Orlando, to share the exciting news.

"He said, 'Yep this is going to be different,'" Kevin Lidle told CNN's Larry King Wednesday night. "It's the biggest stage in the world and he was very excited. He didn't know what the future held with the Yankees, but I know he was hoping that they would ask him to come back."

His twin told Larry King Wednesday night that his brother's death had not "fully sunk in."

The brothers were close and often spoke on the phone. They had talked just Tuesday as Cory Lidle was preparing to leave New York following the end of the Yankees season and return to West Covina, California, where he lives with his wife and son.

I guess I'm in some kind of state of shock," his brother said. "The first thing that really hit me hard was ... I saw a picture of him [on television] and underneath it said 1972-2006. I just thought, 'That does not look right.' "

The Lidle brothers played high school baseball together, along with New York Yankee Jason Giambi and his brother, Jeremy Giambi of the Chicago White Sox.

Friends and family described the ballplayer as humble and good natured.(Watch friend describe Lidle -- 3:22 Video)

"Cory was normal person. When I say that, I mean if you were to meet him on the street you would not know that he was a New York Yankee," said Kevin Lidle. "He is not one to brag and boast. He has a tremendous sense of humor. He loved to laugh."

Around the clubhouse, he treated everyone "like equals" said Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci.

The ballplayer spent much of his personal time logging flight time, said Verducci.

According to a September New York Times profile, Lidle made $3.3 million this season.

He told a Times reporter that he purchased a four-seat airplane equipped with a parachute for $187,000.

"[It was] only recently that [Lidle] made the money he needed," said Verducci, "to go out and buy a plane."

Lidle, who earned his pilot's license in February and bought the plane he was flying in September, was born in Hollywood, California, and married Melanie Varela in 1997.

The couple's son, Christopher Taylor Lidle, is now 6.


story.1825.lidle.jpg

Cory Lidle in April flying near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he played baseball before joining the Yankees.

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