When the teams take the field for the first of three Players’ Weekend games on Friday, you’ll notice a uniform patch in memory of the late Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 27 on July 1. But several players who knew Skaggs well will be taking that tribute a step further, coming together as a community in honor of a departed baseball brother.
A group of nine players -- Brewers outfielders Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich and third baseman Mike Moustakas, Nationals starter Patrick Corbin, White Sox starter Lucas Giolito, Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty, Braves starter Max Fried, and Rangers reliever Jesse Chavez and first baseman Scott Heineman -- will wear jerseys with a tribute to Skaggs on the back in lieu of their previously chosen Players’ Weekend nicknames.
“Players’ Weekend is all about expressing yourself, whether that be with style or those types of things,” Giolito said. “We just want to express our love for him. It’s never going to end, despite his passing, and we are in support of his family as they continue to go through this hard time.”
For one game this weekend, Yelich, Braun, Moustakas, Fried, Flaherty, Giolito and Heineman will wear “LOVE YOU TY” on the backs of their jerseys, while Chavez and Corbin will be wearing “FORTY FIVE” (Skaggs’ jersey number) for a nickname with their own jersey number underneath.
The plan is for the players to wear their Skaggs tribute jerseys on Friday, while wearing the Players’ Weekend nicknames they previously selected the following two days. The only exception is Fried, who has asked to wear his tribute for his start against the Mets that is currently scheduled for Saturday. Chavez is currently on the injured with a right elbow impingement, but he is eligible to return on Friday.
On July 12, Skaggs’ Angels teammates all wore his name and No. 45 on their backs for what turned out to be not only an emotional night but a historic one, with Taylor Cole and Felix Pena combining for a no-hitter against the Mariners.
But Skaggs touched a lot of lives, and this is an opportunity for some of his closest friends elsewhere in the game to show their love that goes beyond the uniform patch that all players were given the option of wearing this weekend.
Like Skaggs, Giolito, Fried and Flaherty hail from the Santa Monica, Calif., area, and Skaggs was a mentor of sorts in terms of how to prepare in the offseason. So in a recent text thread, they decided to band together.
“We just got to talking and reached out to the reps at the Players’ Association to see if they thought it could be doable,” Fried said. “We had already put our names in, but just to be able to do this for one night to pay our respects and give him a nice tribute is something we wanted to do.”
The MLBPA and MLB were receptive to the idea, and other players around the game reached out, too.
That included Braun, who first met Skaggs when Skaggs was 19 years old and freshly drafted by the Angels out of high school. The two also worked out together, and Braun attended Skaggs’ wedding last offseason.
“He’s just one of those larger-than-life personalities,” Braun said. “Just to see his continued growth and development was something that was so cool, so special. For all of us, it’s been a really challenging couple of months.”
Braun asked his fellow Southern California-bred Brewers, Yelich and Moustakas, if they’d like to join him in honoring Skaggs, and they were on board.
Skaggs will also be recognized by former teammates like Chavez and Corbin, who are taking this as a cathartic opportunity to bring Skaggs’ spirit with them on the field.
“Calling him a good teammate doesn’t do him justice or show what he was as a person,” said Chavez, who played with Skaggs with the Angels in 2017. “It’s amazing that he touched so many different lives on so many different teams, just because of who he is as a person. MLB is allowing us to do this, and it’s awesome.”
For the rest of Players’ Weekend, you will see these nine players wearing the following nicknames on the backs of their jerseys.
Ryan Braun: “OCHO”
Jesse Chavez: “SHAYVEZ”
Patrick Corbin: “CORBY”
Jack Flaherty: “FLARE”
Max Fried: “MAXIMUS”
Lucas Giolito: “BIG FOOT”
Scott Heineman: “BIG MIKE”
Mike Moustakas: “CA STRONG”
Christian Yelich: “YELI”
MLB.com reporters Scott Merkin, Jake Crouse, Anne Rogers, Mark Bowman and Jamal Collier and contributor Henry Palatella contributed to this story.