Tributes to Adenhart, TV and radio and typing through the tears
There was no game, of course. The Angels couldn't play baseball at the place where a night earlier 22-year-old Nick Adenhart pitched six shutout innings, went out with his friends and hours later died from injuries caused by a driver allegedly so drunk that he didn't stop for a red light or even slow down to avoid a car full of three young men and woman.
So Adenhart's family is grieving -- biological and baseball -- and there is no baseball at Angel Stadium.
On Fox Sports West, its six Angels experts -- Bill Macdonald, Steve Physioc, Rory Markas, Jose Mota, Rex Hudler and Mark Gubizca -- gathered at the stadium to speak of the tragedy.
Of the six speakers, two touched me specially. Markas has undergone his own trauma this year, suffering and then recovering from a brain aneurysm that kept him from broadcasting part of the USC basketball season.
"My emotions change from minute to minute," Markas said. "Complete shock becomes disbelief becomes sadness, but what I will remember from last night's ball game was ... Nick leaving with a little hint of a smile on his face and that will make me smile later when I think of it."
And Hudler, who is an emotional guy under any circumstance -- one suspects if the mustard is applied correctly to his hot dog, Hudler will let out a cheer and hug the hot-dog guy -- spoke of being on the 1994 Angels team when pitcher Mark Leiter's son Ryan passed away while Leiter was on a flight with his teammates.
"His baby passed away in flight," Hudler said, his voice quavering. "Our manager pulled Mark out of a meeting and we heard a grieving father and his anguish. Harold Reynolds was on our team, he gathered us around, we held hands. Yes, we held hands."
But as emotional as the television tribute was (after the announcers gave their remembrances, Fox re-played the six innings of the game Adenhart pitched last night), listening to Angels radio station 830 for half an hour Thursday night was almost too sad to handle and yet it clearly offered Angels fans the chance to find solace in a community of others who were suffering the same emotional trauma.
The station just allowed callers to speak, many through tears, some angry at a system that allowed a man with a drunk-driving history to be driving, some sad, almost all wishing blessings on the families of both Adenhart and the other passengers in the car. They shared stories of happy Angels moments and sad ones and they all only wanted, it seemed, to be listened to by whoever was out in the radio world.
When something like this happens, sometimes it's not easy to find others who can share your emotions. It's a pitcher on a team. It's a young man you've never met, you don't know and maybe your friends or family or co-workers don't quite get it. Why are you crying about a stranger?
It reminds me of what happened when a friend's dog died of cancer. She would come home from work and cry alone because, as she said, while no one was rude and most everybody wanted to care, she could sense the attitude. "It's only a dog."
The radio callers seemed the same. They needed to let loose their feelings, even if they were for a young man who was no more than a kid in a uniform, one they barely knew. That radio station gave you the chance to understood how it is that sports can make us feel as a family should and how grief and pain, shared equally, can help heal too.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: Fans gather around a makeshift memorial honoring Nick Adenhart at Angel Stadium on Thursday. Credit: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images