It doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter right now. It can matter tomorrow or the next day, or even yesterday, but right now it just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what the Angels record is or will be, what a players individual stats are or aren’t, or who is on the all-star game roster and who got snubbed, because right now at this exact moment things just don’t seem to matter.
April 8th, 2009- It was just the third game of season for the Angels, and just my first game of the year that I would attend. I was 14 at the time, and Angels Baseball was still very new to me; I wasn’t in love with it how I am now. There was no Statcast, or saber metrics, and I’m sure FanGraphs wasn’t even a thought yet, but what I did know was that I really liked baseball. A young prospect by name of Nick Adenhart was on the mound that night for the Halos, and boy was he good. He went six innings, allowing no runs on seven hits while striking out 5 in just his 4th game of his career. As he departed that night the Angels had a 3-0 and the crowd knew something special was on the horizon. Unfortunately the bullpen could lock it down that night as they would lose 6-4 to the Oakland A’s.
April 9th, 2009- It was around 9:30 AM and I was still sound asleep as my dad knocked on my bedroom door and walked in. To this day I still remember hearing his voice as clear as day, as he said “Hey Jared, I just wanted to let know that the Angels pitcher we saw last night, Nick Adenhart, well he passed away this morning in Fullerton. He and some friends were hit by a drunk driver last night after the game.” I sat up for a second trying to wrap my head around what I just heard, as deep down I was hoping it was just a cruel joke, or hoping I might wake up from the beginning of a nightmare. I walked down the stairs and turned on the TV flipping through channels; CBS2, NBC4, ABC7, KCAL9 FOX11, and finally stopping at MLB Network but the headline was the same on every channel, “Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, dead at 22.” Tears filled my 14 year old eyes as we had just seen him throw a gem last night, and now he was gone.
The night of April 10th, 2009 was one like no other I had, or would ever have hoped to be a part of again at a baseball game. Tears filled the eyes of every single person in the stadium that night, and Nicks presences was felt all over the stadium, and watching the game felt right. The then grieving Halos squad took on the Boston Red Sox. A heartbroken Jered Weaver who had lost one of his best friends the day before would dazzle. Over 6.2 innings Weav struck out eight, allowing just one run on four hits that night. The Angels would gut through one of the toughest games of their lives as they won that game 6-3 not for themselves but for Nick.
After the game, a few of us found ourselves walking to a memorial in between the two big hats in front of Angel Stadium. Flowers we set up all around the pitchers mound, and we had all autographed a baseball or two that we caught at batting practice earlier in the day, and put it with all of the flowers as we paid our respects to Nick Adenhart. We hoped to never be in this situation again.
July 1st, 2019- It was about 2:15 PM and my phone started blowing up. I was in the middle of coaching at the UCI youth camp; 5 phone calls from family and friends, 60 text messages, news alerts from the MLB, ESPN, and Athletic apps, all of them reading the same thing, “Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs found dead in his hotel room in Texas.” I couldn’t believe what I just looked at. I again found myself hoping that my phone somehow got hacked and that it was some type a cruel joke, or I would wake up from the beginning of this nightmare unfolding before my eyes…but I couldn’t. It wasn’t a nightmare. It was an all too real event that felt way to familiar to something that happened at the beginning this crazy adventure I embarked on roughly 10 years ago called, Angels Baseball. I found myself with my hands on my head in center field at Anteater Ballpark at UCI (University of California Irvine) trying to put two and two together, while also trying to fight back tears so the 5-13 years olds I was coaching didn’t ask my why I was crying on the first day of camp.
Around 9 o’clock at night I would get off from my second job of the day. I quickly packed all my things and drove straight to the Angel Stadium, where there were about 7 news trucks there waiting to start their interviews for the ten o’clock airing. Even with all the commotion I was able to find a somewhat quiet spot in front of the memorial so I could take a second to remember our fallen friend. It was an all too familiar scene that I wish to never be apart of again. Thinking back to Nick Adenhart and now Tyler Skaggs, the only words that I could think about was, “this shouldn’t happen.” As tears ran down my face I again had a ball that I signed and placed it with the flowers, and slowly walked back to my car.
Over the last couple of days, everybody has been able to grieve in their own ways, but together as a family, an Angels Family. Former teammates posting heartbroken social media posts of their beloved friend. Like CJ Cron talking about “Dancing and laughing together at your(Skaggs) wedding night.” Patrick Corbin changing his number to 45 then throwing a gem for his good friend, then breaking down during his postgame interview. Or, Mike Trout in tears in his post game interview talking about how he, “lost a teammate, lost a friend, and brother.” Fans calling into the Sports Lodge with Roger Lodge for three straight hours, for two days in a row just to tell their wonderful memories of Tyler. It was hard for me to drive with out tearing up listening to some of these stories of him. Taking the time out of his day to take a picture for a fan, going to CHOC children’s hospital to spend his off day with sick kids, or signing just one more autograph at a meet and great outside a Jersey Mike’s in Irvine.
I was born and raised in Anaheim, and I’ve watched Angels Baseball my entire life. But guys I’ll tell you this, when it rains it’s a hurricane, and I’ll be honest, it really sucks sometimes. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about what the Angels community has been through not just recently, but through out there 57 years of existence. I was only 8 when this organization won its first, and only World Series, but this makes me want a championship that much more. This might sound ludicrous or bias, but there is no franchise, fan base, or team more deserving of a championship than this one in Anaheim. While championships have to earned through hard work, dedication and a little bit of luck, the time is coming, I promise you that. Rest In Peace Tyler Skaggs, the next ones for you.
Featured image via Ric Tapia/Getty Images