Halos win with heavy hearts, Skaggs in memory

Calhoun: 'We know we’ve got an angel watching over us now'

July 3rd, 2019

ARLINGTON -- In the day and a half after the shocking death of 27-year-old pitcher , the Angels players had yet to speak about their memories and emotions before Tuesday’s postgame press conference following their 9-4 victory over the Rangers.

Then, one by one, they walked behind manager Brad Ausmus at the front of the room until they were a mass of red shirts and red hats. Fifteen of them stood there with tears welling in their eyes. In an extraordinary scene full of raw grief and brotherly solidarity, they consoled each other and eulogized their friend.

“It’s just a tough 24 hours,” center fielder Mike Trout said. “We’re getting through it. Tough playing out there today, but like Brad said earlier, Skaggsy wouldn’t have wanted us to take another day off. The energy he brought to the clubhouse, every time you saw him, he was just picking you up. It’s going to be tough these next couple days, the rest of the season, the rest of our lives, to lose a friend. We were close. All these guys in here, I see these guys more than my family. To lose somebody like him..."

Trout’s voice broke.

“It’s tough. My first at-bat, I get up there, and all I do is think about him. Just a different feeling, you know. Just in shock. Walking around the hotel, you’re just always thinking about him. It’s going to be tough.”

Ausmus said before the game that he hoped the playing field might provide a “refuge” of sorts from their sorrows, and in their first competition since Monday’s shocking news, the Angels were able to focus on the business at hand. Still, echoes of the tragedy resonated throughout Globe Life Park.

There was a stark moment of silence before the game. Two Halos pitchers, Andrew Heaney and Cam Bedrosian, carried Skaggs’ No. 45 jersey to the field with them as the team lined up to pay their respects.

“It was something unplanned,” Heaney said. “The jersey was hanging in his locker. We wanted to take him out there with us one more time.”

Heaney, too, was overcome with emotion. He spoke resolutely through it.

“He meant so much to all of us. He was definitely my best friend," Heaney said of Skaggs. "There’s probably about 100 other people out there that would say that he was their best friend, too, because he treated everybody like that. He just had an infectious personality. He just always lived life to the fullest and was always the one that wanted to pump everybody else up, and never wanted a dull moment, was never the type to let a room be silent. All of us are going to miss that energy and positivity that he always brought.”

From the start on Tuesday night, Skaggs’ No. 45 was always in view -- stenciled on the mound, emblazoned on the scoreboard and stitched in white on a circular black patch on the left breast of the Angels’ red jerseys.

The Rangers toned down their game presentation for the night out of respect, forgoing the usual loud music between innings and even skipping their signature “Dot Race” during the sixth inning.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward acknowledged that the situation was all but unprecedented, saying, “They deserved to win today. … They didn’t take one pitch off.”

In the eighth inning Tuesday, hanging onto a 7-4 lead, Kole Calhoun hit a two-run homer that put the game away. Ausmus and some of the Angels players said that it was a game they believed they had to win.

“It kind of felt right,” Calhoun said. “We know we’ve got an angel watching over us now. He was a guy that lit up the room. ... His energy and his positivity and just the person he was, it ran deep. And it touched this organization for a long time and a lot of people around baseball.

“Today was just different. There’s no playbook on how it’s supposed to go today, and how you’re supposed to act and react. But getting back to the game, [it was] definitely what he would’ve wanted. I think this was a time, and today was a day, that we leaned on each other like we really needed to.”