ORANGE, Calif. -- On one of the saddest mornings in Angels history, a groundskeeper on the field in Angel Stadium smoothed the pitching rubber on which Nick Adenhart stood 13 hours before.
In a conference room on the third floor of the park, Adenhart's No. 34 uniform was draped over a table atop the dais. On its left sleeve, a "Preston" patch commemorating the recent passing of Angels exec Preston Gomez.
There will soon be another patch on those uniforms, in memory of Adenhart, the victim of a tragic hit-and-run accident in Fullerton, Calif., in the wee minutes of Thursday.
The sudden and shocking development moved the Angels to cancel Thursday's night game, the finale of a four-game series with Oakland. Makeup plans will be announced later.
Into that third-floor room, media members, club officials and Fullerton police and fire department officers filed in with long faces and vacant eyes. They were there to discuss the 12:24 a.m. accident that took three lives and left a fourth in critical condition, and to reminisce about an exceptional 22-year-old.
As Tim Mead, the Angels' vice president of communications said in opening the proceedings, "It is with deep regret that we are having this press conference."
Of all the sad, thoughtful and poignant sentiments that ensued, nothing spoke louder of Adenhart's effect than the eyes of agent Scott Boras, which weren't vacant but wet.
Looking completely distraught when his turn to speak came, Boras took several deep breaths before saying, "Nick's parents, Jim and Janet, wanted me to convey to the entire Angels organization ... "
Then the tough-as-steel agent broke down, audibly sobbing before again collecting himself to say through quivering lips, "He was a great kid. His life goal was to be a big league baseball player. He'd summoned his father [on Tuesday], telling him 'You better come [to Wednesday's game]. Something special's going to happen.'"
Something special did: Adenhart blanked the Oakland A's for six innings of what turned out to be an Angels loss.
"After the game," Boras said, "he was so elated. It was tremendous fun. A great moment for all of us, seeing a young man take a huge step."
A couple of hours after that 6-4 loss, the Angels suffered a loss much more painful and lasting. A van driven by Andrew Thomas Gallo, a 22-year-old Riverside resident, ran a red light at the Fullerton intersection of Lemon and Orangethorpe and slammed the two-door Eclipse in which Adenhart was a passenger, hurtling it against a telephone pole.
Active player deaths since 1990
|Nick Adenhart||Angels|| 4/9/2009|
|Steve Bechler||Orioles ||2/17/2003|
|Tim Crews|| Indians|| 3/23/1993|
|Mike Darr||Padres|| 2/15/2002|
|Josh Hancock||Cardinals ||4/29/2007|
|Joe Kennedy||Blue Jays ||11/23/2007|
|Darryl Kile||Cardinals|| 6/22/2002|
|Cory Lidle||Yankees|| 10/11/2006|
|Steve Olin||Indians|| 3/22/1993|
|Dernell Stenson|| Reds ||11/5/2003|
Adenhart was pulled from the wreckage by Fullerton Fire Dept. rescuers and transported within 15 minutes to University of California-Irvine Medical Center, where he was soon pronounced dead. Courtney Stewart, the 20-year-old driver of the vehicle, and another unidentified 27-year-old male passenger were declared dead at the scene.
"An absolutely horrible tragedy," said Lt. Kevin Hamilton, in charge of the traffic bureau for the Fullerton Police Dept. and lead investigator on the case.
Hamilton said Gallo would be booked on DUI, vehicular manslaughter and murder charges, but the eventual charges he will face will be up to the District Attorney. Gallo's arraignment is scheduled for Monday.
Gallo has a history of arrests for driving under the influence. While withholding specifics, Hamilton said his blood-alcohol reading was above the minimum. The officer also said Gallo was driving with a license suspended due to his DUI infractions.
Angels general manager Tony Reagins and manager Mike Scioscia sat stone-faced behind that third-floor table in sharing their memories of Adenhart.
"He was a privilege to be around. He grew as much in four years as anyone I've ever known," said Scioscia. "I can't tell you how proud I was of the great progress he made. He had arm surgery before throwing his first pitch in professional ball, so his family should be very proud."
As head of the Angels' Minor League system prior to his ascension to GM in he winter of '07, Reagins had a special relationship with Adenhart.
"He had a great energy, but didn't show it," Reagins said. "He was very poised; nothing ever seemed to faze this kid.
"He was a tremendous player, and a tremendous person who impacted the other players and the coaching staff in a very positive way. Disbelief is prevalent; we're all in shock. We will deeply miss him; it's difficult to express how much."
Although Thursday night's game is off, the entire roster will convene in its Angel Stadium locker, with Scioscia holding a meeting to begin the healing process.
"We'll have everyone together," Scioscia said, "and start to move forward. And we'll focus on supporting Nick's family."