ANAHEIM- it seemed as if it were just yesterday, this picture on ESPN's Sportscenter from April 9, 2009 caught the attention of the entire Angels fan base and shook it just like the 1994 Northridge Earthquake that sent the scoreboard crashing down to the View Level seats at The Bigger A.
The Angels Baseball organization has been dealt a few shockers instead of jokers in their deck of playing cards for the past fifty-one years. Lyman Bostock, a young and promising outfielder, was gunned down in Chicago, following a doubleheader with the White Sox. The horrific team bus crash that left twelve members of the team seriously injured. And Preston Gomez, a 65 year baseball veteran, and longtime member of the Angels orginization passed away during Spring Training.
ON April 9, 2009, the Angels sent another young and promising pitcher to the mound for Game 2 of the series with the Oakland Athletics at The Big A. The pitcher, was Nick Adehart, the 419th overall selection by the Angels in the MLB Draft a few years earlier.
Nick's first appearance was against the same A's as he struggled by giving up 5 runs, and walking 5, in a no decision effort (Oakland won 15-8).
After the game in the clubhouse, Nick told reporters that “I let down the team first. You always want to go out and prove yourself to your teammates and your manager and your coaches. I was a disappointment to myself also.”
Nick was given another chance, and facing those same Swingin' A's, he pitched what most fans were calling "The best game of his life" 6 Innings, 7 Hits, 3 Walks, 5 Strikeouts and allowing 0 runs, leaving the game with a 3 run lead. Shortly after, he was gone.
(COURTESY OF: wikipedia.org)
Shortly after midnight on April 9, 2009, Adenhart was involved in a car crash in Fullerton, California, just hours after being the starting pitcher in the previous night’s game. Police reported that an individual driving a red Toyota Sienna minivan ran a red light and broadsided the gray Mitsubishi Eclipse Adenhart was a passenger in, sending it crashing into a telephone pole. Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson, the driver and another passenger of the Mitsubishi respectively, were pronounced dead at the scene. Adenhart and Jon Wilhite, the third passenger in the Mitsubishi, were taken to University of California, Irvine Medical Center, where Adenhart died as a result of his injuries.Wilhite suffered an internal decapitation and survived the crash after undergoing a five-hour surgery to reattach his skull six days after the accident.
The minivan driver fled the scene on foot, but was later apprehended and identified as Andrew Thomas Gallo.On May 27, 2009, Gallo was indicted by the Orange County grand jury on three counts of murder, one count each of felony hit-and-run, driving under the influence and causing injury, and driving with a .08 percent blood alcohol or higher and causing injury and death.Gallo had a blood alcohol content of .19 percent two hours after the crash, and was also driving with a suspended license. On June 8, 2009, Gallo entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment.After a two week jury trial held in September 2010, Gallo was convicted on three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of driving under the influence causing great bodily injury, and one felony count of hit-and-run. A bench trial found Gallo guilty of driving on a suspended license.On December 22, 2010, Gallo was sentenced to 51 years to life in jail.
The team that has seen so many staples of the orginazation take that long trip up the Stairway to Heaven, sees a young and promising pitcher follow that path. With the permission of MLB, the Angels decided to postpone the final game of the series with the A’s until the team and families of those lost in the crash could cope, and recover.
In honor of Nick’s passing, the team adorned his #34 on their jerseys, as well as a picture of Nick on the Center Field wall at Angel Stadium. Fans stepped in to remember a kid they hardly knew, by setting up a memorial on the Pitcher’s mound outside of the ballpark at the Home Plate Gate.
Across the Angels minor league affiliations, as well in the MLB, Adenhart’s jersey numbers have since been retired. Nick’s parents have set up an athletic scholarship for $1,000 named “The Nick Adenhart Memorial Scholarship”
As you exit the Angel Stadium parking lot next time you’re up there, be sure to keep this strong message in mind…
IN LIFE AS IN BASEBALL, IT’S THE NUMBER OF TIMES YOU REACH HOME SAFELY THAT COUNTS.