Angels get refuge on the diamond
Club welcomes distraction after losing teammate
ANAHEIM -- Baseball, like many sports, has a special way of taking people away from their more worldly troubles, a fact the Angels were grateful for on Friday.One day after the death of teammate Nick Adenhart, who was killed early Thursday in a hit-and-run car accident, the Angels had had some time to let the tragedy sink in, but it hadn't gotten any easier to deal with.
But during their 6-3 win over the Red Sox, even if it was just for brief moments, the Angels had a chance to not think about the tragedy that befell their teammate."When you play baseball, you kind of forget about it for a moment," Torii Hunter said. "When you're taking a pitch or throwing a pitch and you're running after a ball, you forget about it for a split-second. And that's what it it's all about. That's where I have peace." Angels manager Mike Scioscia called the baseball field the players' "haven" and from the way players talked about it after the game, he was certainly correct. But it doesn't mean it wasn't a difficult task to play after their teammate died just a day before. "Once you're out there making pitches, it's all the same," said reliever Scot Shields, who earned the save. "But in between pitches, it's hard." It was especially hard for starter Jered Weaver, who was supposed to become roommates with Adenhart on Sunday in Long Beach, Calif. But that will never come to fruition and Weaver had the tough task of making the Angels' first start since Adenhart's death. Weaver made the most of that start by allowing just one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings. "I wanted to go out there and battle as much as possible and not think about it," Weaver said. "It's going to be tough to be over this." The Angels gave tribute to Adenhart with a touching ceremony that left many players in tears before the first pitch. "The whole pregame thing was awesome," said Kevin Jepsen, who played in the Minors with Adenhart. "And that moment of silence just brings tears to your eyes. Just looking down the line and him not seeing him there is tough." The Angels brought Adenhart's shirt to the mound during the moment of silence and brought it into the dugout so that the team could feel like Adenhart was still there. But it was awfully difficult not to think about Adenhart between pitches and during other times when the game stood still. "The game has a way of just sucking you right in and that's all you think about it," Scioscia said. "But sometimes when you look around and you see Nick's shirt, it brings you back to reality." Before the Angels took the field against the Red Sox on Friday, Scioscia offered hope that playing the game they love might help the grieving process along. "It's going to take some time," Scioscia said. "Everybody has a heavy heart. There's no one down there in that clubhouse who doesn't. "How you get through it is that baseball has a way of you focusing on the field. I'm sure the easiest time for these guys will be between the lines. It was extremely tough for us to come into the ballpark yesterday, and I don't think anyone slept last night." The Angels decided to close the clubhouse to reporters before the game to give the players more time to themselves. But pitchers Joe Saunders and Dustin Moseley as well as pitching coach Mike Butcher and Scioscia addressed the media. One common thread among the four was talking about how much Thursday's team meeting helped with the grieving process. Scioscia and Adenhart's father, Jim, led the meeting with players getting a chance to share thoughts and memories about their fallen teammate. "It was heartfelt," said Moseley, who fought back tears while he spoke. "Everything that Scioscia and Mr. Adenhart said. But also for us players for the things we told Mr. Adenhart and the hugs we gave him. And I think that helped bring Nick back for a little bit." It was especially tough for Moseley because the two had developed a close friendship after being teammates last season with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. "There wasn't a day that me and Nick didn't say something to each other or joke about something," Moseley said. "And to lose that is going to always be a void for me." Saunders also pointed to the meeting as an instrumental part in coping with the loss of Adenhart. "It was one of the most emotional things I've ever been a part of," Saunders said. "I don't think I had cried since I was 11. But to see the sheer emotion on his father's face really just tears your heart apart." It hit Saunders hard because he had so much in common with Adenhart. Both are from the Northeast and Saunders' mom is from Silver Spring, Md., which is where Adenhart was born. The two also had lockers next to each other and shared a love for the Washington Redskins. "It was one of the toughest things I've ever had to go through, not only as a player but as a person," Saunders said. "We had so many things in common it was crazy." It was also difficult for Butcher, who watched Adenhart develop from a talented high school senior to a mature Major League talent even at the age of 22. Butcher, who was the first person Adenhart's father called, had a tough time talking about his emotions as he paused nearly 30 seconds before describing what he went through the day before. But Butcher did share one of his favorite memories of Adenhart, which happened after the right-hander tossed six scoreless innings against the A's just hours before his untimely death. "He said, 'Butch, I got it.'" Butcher said. "That was a special moment to see a kid figure it out that early and own it." It was just one of many special moments that Adenhart had as a member of the Angels organization, and that's why he'll never be forgotten. "This is something that will touch us for a lifetime," Scioscia said.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.