DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado was stunned when he learned that Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs had died unexpectedly at age 27 on Monday. Arenado played with Skaggs on a Brewers Elite scout team, which played once a week against junior college teams in the Los Angeles/Anaheim area, and was a teammate in showcase games.
“I was at home and it just popped up on my phone,” Arenado said. “I was like, ‘Is that really saying what it’s saying?’ It hit me hard. I was like, ‘What?’ I just kept going through my phone to look for information, if it was true or not.”
Arenado shared fond memories of Skaggs and Skaggs' mother, Debbie Hetman, a longtime softball coach who gave Skaggs pitching tips into his pro career and even helped motivate Arenado and the other teammates.
“I loved playing with him,” said Arenado, who said he always spent time with Skaggs when the Rockies and Angels would meet during Spring Training. “When we got drafted, it was really cool. He was playing with the Diamondbacks and I faced him [for Class A Advanced Modesto] with Visalia all the time. We had some good battles. He’s a good friend.
“His mom was so cool -- super-supportive and intense. I love her. She was always telling me, ‘You’ve gotta go hard. You’ve got to win. Don’t be getting pushed around.’ I’m hurting for her and the family.”
Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta was a teammate of Skaggs with the Angels in 2014. After Skaggs returned in 2016 from missing a year because of Tommy John elbow surgery, Iannetta was playing for the Mariners, but sometimes Skaggs would ask him questions.
“He came back from Tommy John -- that’s a tough injury to come back from -- so a lot of it was just getting back 100 percent healthy,” Iannetta said. “It takes a little bit of time.
“I couldn’t believe it. It’s definitely surreal for a person that young to pass away. You can’t really prepare for something like that. He was a really great kid, very down-to-earth, really good with everybody, really encouraging with his teammates.”