Skaggs' mom throws 1st pitch on emotional night

July 13th, 2019

ANAHEIM -- Before Taylor Cole and Felix Pena combined to no-hit the Mariners in an unbelievable showing given the circumstances, the Angels touchingly paid tribute to the late on Friday night in their first game at Angel Stadium since he passed away on July 1 in Southlake, Texas.

Angels players all wore Skaggs’ No. 45 jersey and Skaggs was honored in a pregame ceremony that featured his mother, Debbie, throwing a perfect strike on a ceremonial first pitch to . Skaggs’ wife, Carli, his stepbrother, Garret, and his stepfather, Dan Ramos, also were at the mound with Debbie, near a framed Skaggs jersey placed there by and Heaney. Cole said it was that first pitch that set the tone for an unforgettable night.

“It was unbelievable," Cole said. "She went out there and threw an absolute perfect pitch. It couldn’t have been better. No matter how great of an effort or how great of an athlete she is. I heard she even used to catch Tyler’s bullpens. She was a great athlete but she threw a great pitch. It was really cool to see his family before the game. It set the tone for the rest of the way.”

A tribute video of Skaggs' career was shown on the big screen, while a 45-second moment of silence was held with both the Angels and Mariners lined up on the foul lines.

“He was in the prime of his life and the prime of his career -- it’s very tough,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “I walked into the ballpark today and saw the flowers and signs out front and that was special. I went for a run on the field and saw Tyler’s picture on the board. It brings back some emotion, but I think it’s nice to have his family here to honor them in front of Angels fans.”

Trout, who was a close friend of Skaggs' since the two were both selected by the Angels in the 2009 Draft, also helped the Angels get on the board in a hurry in the first with both a mammoth two-run homer and a two-run double off veteran Mike Leake. Trout's blast went a projected 454 feet, per Statcast, and Trout acknowledged the owner's booth behind home as he touched the plate. His 28-second trot around the bases was his longest since Statcast was introduced in 2015. With two outs, Trout came up to the plate again and delivered a two-run double to give the Angels a 7-0 lead.

It gave the Angels plenty of breathing room for Cole and Pena, who completed the 11th no-hitter in franchise history and the second combined no-no. Heaney poignantly said it’ll be a positive memory they’ll always have of Skaggs.

“It's probably more just emotionally therapeutic,” Heaney said. “Everybody after the game, we're running out on the field and everybody's celebrating. Three hours earlier, and I don't know about anybody else, but I had tears in my eyes. You're sort of reliving your bad memories, bad thoughts. Just for tonight and maybe moving forward, you kind of change your mindset from when you think about him. You're thinking about the loss of a friend, of a teammate, whatever it may be. But moving forward, hopefully it can be a little bit more of when you think of him, you think of his jersey, you think of his name, it brings back positive memories.”

Skaggs’ image was present throughout the ballpark, including a new sign on the center-field fence that featured a picture of him getting ready to throw a pitch, located next to a No. 45 patch. The No. 45 was also painted behind the mound, while a No. 45 patch will remain on the Angels’ jerseys throughout the season. The LED ribbon boards at the ballpark also read, “Tyler Skaggs, 1991-2019.”

Fans also created a makeshift memorial near the home-plate entrance at Angel Stadium that included Angels hats, flowers, handwritten notes and photos of Skaggs. It’s expected to grow as the homestand continues and is in the same location as the memorial created by fans for the late Nick Adenhart, who died 10 years ago in a car accident.

“I think our fans are extremely loyal and protective,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “If you put on the ‘A’ and the Halo, there’s a respect that comes from that within the community. People care about this team, about our players, so I’m not surprised by their reaction and their appreciation for Tyler.”

The Angels also kept Skaggs’ locker intact at Angel Stadium and they plan to keep it that way the rest of the season, while also keeping a locker for him on road trips. The clubhouse also saw a tribute to Skaggs with his catch phrase, “We’re Nasty,” written on the wall in large block letters, sandwiched between two photos. Eppler said that keeping Skaggs’ locker was the natural thing to do, and Ausmus agreed.

“It’s good to have it,” Ausmus said. “We had it in Texas, we had it in Houston and we’ll probably have it the rest of the season, on the road and here. He’s part of the team even though he’s not here.”