04/09/09 11:15 PM ET
MLB fraternity staggered by Adenhart's death
Players and coaches around the country react to tragic news
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
"It's sad. It really is," Girardi said. "You think of a young man who realizes his dream and pitches six shutout innings, and drives home and is gone. Life is not supposed to be like that. I didn't even know the kid and it's hard for me. He's just a little boy who dreamed about playing in the big leagues."It's one big fraternity, one big family. Your heart goes out to that family and that young man. You realize how precious life is. You wake up every day and be thankful for what you've got, because you never know." Adenhart, who was dominant for the Angels on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium in a 6-4 loss to the A's, was killed along with two other people as their vehicle was heading through a Fullerton, Calif., intersection when a van ran a red light, authorities said. He was pronounced dead after undergoing surgery at University of California-Irvine Medical Center, hospital spokesman John Murray said. The Angels confirmed Adenhart's death in a statement and said no other members of the Angels organization were involved in the accident. "The Angels family has suffered a tremendous loss today," Halos general manager Tony Reagins said. "We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragic loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nick's family, friends, loved ones and fans." In San Diego, Padres manager Bud Black, who was the Angels' pitching coach as Adenhart came up through the system, reflected upon that relationship before his current club played the Dodgers on Thursday at PETCO Park. "He was in camp as a 19-year-old. He was a bright kid, had a great personality," Black said about Adenhart, who made three starts for the Angels during the 2008 season and was 1-0 with a 9.00 ERA. "He was wide-eyed and excited to be in big league camp. We were looking forward to many years of him pitching with the Angels. "The Angels signed him knowing he needed Tommy John [elbow ligament replacement] surgery. We followed him and then our front office wanted to bring him to big league camp even though he was a 19-year-old. Even though he had limited time in the Minor Leagues, we thought that highly of him." Bruce Hines, now the third-base coach with the Mariners and once the Minor League coordinator in the Angels organization as Adenhart climbed up through the system, was stunned by the loss of a player he knew all too well. "It is a terrible tragedy and I feel for his family because Nick was a wonderful young man," said Hines, who was in Minnesota on Thursday, when the Mariners played the Twins. "It was a case of maturing for him. He finally had done that. He always had great stuff. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. It's a terrible loss. I have known him since he signed [in 2005]. He was a great signing." In the other clubhouse at PETCO, the Dodgers were no less upset. Blake DeWitt and James Loney recalled a 2007 batting-practice session against Adenhart. "It was just before Spring Training and we needed someone to throw batting practice and he said he needed to throw a bullpen, so we worked out at a junior college in Arizona," said DeWitt, a second-year utility infielder. "Afterward, we talked about what a live arm he had. We came out of the same Draft. All I heard was how good a pitcher he was. He broke three of James' bats, I know that, and James had to borrow one from me to finish. He seemed like a real nice guy. It's so sad." Loney said he was speaking with his father when he heard the news. "I was telling my dad that he threw to us," Loney said. "I had a friend in the Angels system and that's how we met. He had a good arm. He was throwing hard, I remember that." In Toronto, where the Tigers played to the Blue Jays, veteran Detroit manager Jim Leyland said the news "made me absolutely sick. "I found out shortly before the game. It just made me sick," he said. "I just can't even imagine. I could tell when the word was getting around, the players were just sick. It tears your heart out, really. It's unbelievable. That shakes the whole family." The Giants, meanwhile, released a statement in San Francisco before their game against the Brewers. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of all involved, to the Angels organization and to the baseball community as a whole," the statement read in part. In Cincinnati, where the Reds played the Mets, Reds manager Dusty Baker said simply: "It's sad to think about him and his mom and dad and relatives. He's only 22 -- it makes you want to hug your own kid." In Texas, where Cleveland played the Rangers, several Indians reacted with disbelief. "That's terrible," said Indians pitcher Cliff Lee. "No good can come of that. It's too bad. He was one of their [up-and-coming] guys." "Horrible. That's the only word I can even think of," added Indians manager Eric Wedge. "The first people I think about are his parents, his family. It shouldn't take a great deal to have perspective in this game, but when something like that happens, it brings you back down to earth." Warner Madrigal, a Rangers reliever and a Minor League teammate of Adenhart with Angels, reacted with disbelief. "It's crazy to see that happen," he said. Ron Washington, the Rangers' manager, said it was disturbing to digest the sudden passing of a youngster who possessed so much talent. "That's sad," Washington said. "All I knew about him was his talent. I didn't know him personally. I just knew about his talent. The kid finally got to be a starter at the Major League level." In Chicago, where the Royals played the White Sox, the reaction was similar. "Tragic, very tragic," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "Thankfully, I've never had to deal with something like that, but I can't imagine," said Mark Teahen, the Royals' player representative. "I was just watching the news and it hit me pretty bad. I can't imagine it being even that much closer to him. To see a guy whose career is in front of him and he's finally realizing his dream, to have it taken away that quick. To lose a young life any time is tough but when you look at this and you realize that his life was just coming together for him, it's that much more difficult to hear about." The death sent shock waves around baseball. "The guys talked about him a lot and they all said great things about him, expecting great things from him," said former Angel and current Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira. "To have a life cut short, I really feel for the Angels, because it's a great group of people over there. It's really sad."
"You never want to see that thing happen, especially with a kid who's only about 22, 23 years old," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "That gives you an idea you're not invincible. You've got to pray and you've got to thank God every day for what you have. You've got to thank God every day for what your situation is, no matter what kind of situation you have because all of a sudden your life can go."You don't know how you're going to die, when you're going to die. I feel for them. I feel most for the family and the organization right now. I think they're going to go through a tough time, especially when you're in your 20s. You're supposed to die someday, but I don't think you should die that way and that young." Adenhart was also a member of the 2006 U.S. team that traveled to Cuba and won a spot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He started one game for Team USA, earning a no-decision and striking out six batters in an 8-7 win over Brazil. Royals first baseman Billy Butler was a high school prospect at the same time as Adenhart and they played together in tournaments, including on that USA team. "He was a great competitor and a great teammate. A good kid, did everything right," Butler said. "This is something that's not supposed to happen but you're on God's time, you're not on your time."
"One of the highlights of managing for USA Baseball is the opportunity to work with bright, young players who are eager to learn the game," said Davey Johnson, the manager of that qualifying team and the squad that won a bronze medal in Beijing. "Nick embodied all of those attributes. He was a joy to manage in Cuba and was a key contributor to our success there. This is such a tragedy -- his career was just getting started.""You're never prepared for this kind of news," said Paul Seiler, the executive director of USA Baseball. "We, like the entire the baseball community, mourn the loss of someone so young who was in the prime of his life. Our thoughts go out to his family, his teammates and the entire Angels organization." Kevin Slowey, a pitcher for the Twins, was a teammate of Adenhart on that 2006 Olympic Qualifying Team. "It's just surreal," Slowey said. "I think the first thing I thought of is that I wish I would have talked to him more recently. I played with him on that team in Cuba and we were the two youngest guys so we hung out together a lot, went out together. He was great, a great guy. "I was looking forward to seeing him this year and going out to dinner with him. I don't understand it. I don't understand why something like that would happen. But obviously I'll be praying for his family and peace for them. I'll miss him."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.