ANAHEIM -- Torii Hunter was sleeping when his wife called him to tell him the bad news -- an Angels player had tragically died in a car accident after Wednesday night's game.
Hunter turned on the television to find out it was Nick Adenhart and immediately called an Angels trainer to confirm what had happened. The trainer told Hunter that what he had been hearing was in fact true."I thought it was a dream, but then I saw it was Nick," Hunter said. "It's so hard because I knew him so well. My teammates are like brothers." Thursday brought a rough morning for Angels players who woke up to find out that the 22-year-old Adenhart was killed in a hit-and-run accident that occurred at about 12:30 a.m. PT in nearby Fullerton, Calif. Angels representatives called players early in the morning to tell them the news about Adenhart after his father, Jim, called pitching coach Mike Butcher in the middle of the night from the hospital. "After making phone calls to a lot of players and coaches, disbelief was prevalent," general manager Tony Reagins said. "We are all in shock." It was surprising news especially because Adenhart had just pitched six scoreless innings against the A's in the rookie's first start of the season. "He pitched so well," Hunter said. "I was out there pumping him up every inning. It's hard because he had a smile from ear to ear. He was so excited to show the organization and the fans that he belongs in the Major Leagues. And then now it's all over." Adenhart, who was considered the Angels' No. 1 prospect according to several publications, was also remembered for his fun-loving personality off the field as well. He was fondly remembered by his former Minor League teammates from Triple-A Salt Lake, where he played last season. The Bees postponed their season opener on Thursday and held a prayer session instead. "It's very shocking," said Salt Lake infielder Matt Brown. "It's not just shocking because he's a great pitcher who made the Major Leagues but because he's one of our best friends. We love him very much. We just can't believe it happened to him." Catcher Bobby Wilson, who was Adenhart's battery mate the last two seasons in the Minors, shared Brown's sentiments. "He was one of my best friends in the organization and just one of my best friends in life," said Wilson, who plays for the Angels' Triple-A affiliate and caught Adenhart in the Minors the last two seasons. "He didn't have a care in the world. If something bad happened, he'd shake it off. You couldn't break him." But Wilson also remembered Adenhart for his competitiveness on the mound and his commitment to make the Majors. "Between the lines, he was a competitor, and he's a guy I'd want on the mound every day," Wilson said. "In my opinion, when people ask me who is the best pitcher I ever caught, I always say Nick Adenhart." Said Brown: "When he was on, I don't know anyone better. He was unstoppable and he made it looked so easy. You'd just sit back and watch him do his magic. The sky was the limit for him for his talent."
Adenhart's agent, Scott Boras, also had high hopes for the right-handed pitcher."He had a chance to be a great Major League pitcher -- a frontline starter," Boras said. "And he had the mental makeup to handle all that." Angels manager Mike Scioscia was equally impressed with Adenhart's mental makeup because of the way he matured since being drafted as an 18-year-old out of high school in 2004. "His growth as a person over the last four years is something we're very proud of with him," Scioscia said. "It was a privilege to watch, and his family should be very proud. He was an outstanding young man." Scioscia held a team meeting with players on Thursday at Angel Stadium to remember their teammate and begin the healing process.
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.