Our Daily Dread: Nick Adenhart (1986-2009)

UPDATE at 11:30 a.m.: The Angels have announced that tonight’s game has been postponned. No information on a make up date.

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Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Angels starter Nick Adenhart delivers in the first inning against Oakland on Wednesday at Angels Stadium.

There’s no possible way to equate the different fates that Nick Adenhart met in the matter of hours last night and this morning.

The Angels’ 22-year-old pitcher, in his first start of the season, got through six scoreless innings against Oakland on Wednesday night, striking out five, leaving the game with a 3-0 lead until the bullpen gave up six runs over the last two innings and took the blame in an eventual 6-4 loss at Angels Stadium.

The loss they’ve all felt this morning is much worse. The person who should be taking the blame for it has yet to be identified.

Shortly after midnight, according to early Fullerton police reports, Adenhart and two others were killed at the intersection of Orangethorpe Avenue and Lemon Street. A minivan ran a red light, broadsiding a Mitsubishi with four people in it — including Adenhart, a passenger. Two were pronounced dead at the scene — the female driver and male passenger. Adenhart was pronounced dead later after surgery at a nearby Irvine hospital. No other members of the Angels organization were involved.

The minivan driver tried to run away, but police caught him a mile away and have him facing felony hit-and-run charges.

That intersection remains closed this morning as the police investigation continues, and as news of Adenhart’s death continues to be reported on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and fans are allowed to cry aloud on the Angels’ owned radio station, KLAA-AM (830) with hosts Dave Smith and Roger Lodge.

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Ken Steinhardt/Orange County Register/AP photo

Investigators check out the scene of the crash in Fullerton this morning, an incident where Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others were killed.

We’re left numb, to read the surreal haunting quotes of Adenhart’s performance — his fourth career start — just hours earlier. Sixty one of his 98 pitches were in the strike zone. He was confident and in command. He struck Jason Giambi out at one point on three straight changeups.

“It felt good to work out of some jams early,” said Adenhart, who made a comeback from Tommy John surgery earlier in his career. “My curveball was really working for me, and then my change came on later when I needed it.”

He got out of plenty of trouble during that game Wednesday. He didn’t avoid the real trouble later.

Said manager Mike Scioscia: “I thought he pitched a terrific game. He gave us a chance to win. He has better tools out there now. He pitched ahead a lot and was able to get back in counts and put guys away.”

Now, we add Adenhart’s name onto a list that just seems unreal.

Since the Angels came into existence in 1961 as an American League team, there’s been these litany of tragedies that hardly seems fair:

1965: Rookie pitcher Dick Wantz dies of a brain tumor one month after his only major league game.

1968: Pitcher Minnie Rojas is paralyzed in a car accident that kills his two daughters.

1972: Infielder Chico Ruiz is killed in a car accident in San Diego.

1974: Relief pitcher Bruce Heinbechner, about to start his major league career, dies in a car accident during spring training in Palm Springs.

1975: Former pitcher Jim McGlothlin dies of leukemia at the age of 32.

1977: Shortstop Mike Miley is killed in a car accident in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

1978: Outfielder Lyman Bostock is shot and killed in Gary, Indiana, the victim of mistaken identity.

1981: Former catcher Ed Kirkpatrick is paralyzed in a car accident.

1989: Star relief pitcher Donnie Moore, who gave up Dave Henderson’s home run in the 1986 ALCS with two outs and two strikes on him, shoots his wife, then commits suicide in front of the couple’s son.

1992: Coach Deron Johnson dies of cancer. One month later, a team bus crashes during a road trip going from New York to Baltimore. Several members of the team are injured, and manager Buck Rodgers is hospitalized. The team had to postpone two games in Baltimore to restock their roster.

1996: Hall of Fame player and team coach Rod Carew’s daughter, Michelle, dies of leukemia.

Do the Angels play their game tonight against the A’s? Do they try to put this behind them and focus on baseball? How can you?

Adenhart is survived by his father Jim and mother Janet. His family released the following statement: “Nick’s family expresses sincere gratitude for all the help the Angels have provided. He lived his dream and was blessed to be part of an organization comprised of such warm, caring, and compassionate people. The Angels were his extended family. Thanks to all of Nick’s loyal supporters and fans throughout his career. He will always be in everyone’s hearts forever.”

Angels GM Tony Reagins issued the following statement on behalf of the club: “The Angels family has suffered a tremendous loss today. We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragic loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nick’s famil, friends’ loved ones and fans.”

Take the day off. Do the right thing.

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