Nick Adenhart's burial joins two worlds

SportsBaseballDeathCrime, Law and JusticeCrimeMike SciosciaBrooks Robinson

On a crisp, cloudless morning, a tightknit rural community and a contingent of major league baseball personnel representing the country's second-largest city joined at a quaint, red-brick church to honor a young man who bridged divergent worlds.

Nicholas James "Nick" Adenhart, the 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels right-hander from Western Maryland who was killed last week in a car accident, was buried Thursday after a private service attended by approximately 200 people.

Led by a Maryland state trooper, a procession of 70 cars drove five miles to the interment at the Greenlawn Memorial Park in Washington County.

"The community honored Nick Adenhart today," said Tim Mead, the Angels' vice president of communications, who was among 11 club representatives who flew to Maryland. "You just sensed - certainly the hurt - but the pride in this community for Nick. It was a very nice service."

Those in attendance included Angels owner Arte Moreno and his wife, Carole; general manager Tony Reagins; manager Mike Scioscia; pitching coach Mike Butcher; pitchers Dustin Moseley, Jered Weaver and John Lackey; scouting director Eddie Bane; and scout Dan Radcliff, who was credited with signing an injured Adenhart for $710,000 in the 14th round of the 2004 amateur draft.

The Angels players and coaching staff flew in from Seattle on Wednesday night and then returned for Thursday's night game against the Mariners.

A public memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at Adenhart's alma mater, Williamsport High. Doors open at 4 p.m., and a video tribute will be played continuously before the service begins. Organizers are expecting at least 2,000 to attend.

On April 8, Adenhart, the organization's top prospect, pitched the best game of his brief big league career, throwing six scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics in just his fourth major league start.

Hours later, he and two friends were killed in Fullerton, Calif., when the Mitsubishi Eclipse they were riding in was struck by a minivan that ran a red light. The driver of the minivan, Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, has been charged with three counts of murder as well as fleeing the scene an accident and driving-under-the-influence-related felonies.

One week later, family and select friends of Adenhart mourned their loss at Downsville Christian, Adenhart's childhood church, which is adjacent to a working farm and across the road from a general store that rents videos, sells sandwiches and has a full wall display of various pieces of fishing equipment - a world away from the glitz of Los Angeles and the glare of the major league spotlight.

The service lasted nearly an hour.

"It was hard. It was heartbreaking," said Dean Albany, the Orioles' East Coast cross-checker scout, who managed Adenhart for several years with the Maryland Orioles high-level select team. "The hardest thing for me is I still don't believe it happened. You want to pinch yourself and wake up, but you just don't wake up from this."

While at the service, Albany said he could sense what Adenhart meant to the community.

"We all have our own heroes growing up. [Orioles greats] Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson were my heroes," Albany said. "Nick Adenhart was a lot of people's hero around there. So this was tough on a lot of people, a lot of small kids in that little community."

Five miles from the church, at Williamsport High, more than 30 bouquets of flowers are arranged in the chain-link fence that surrounds the school's baseball field, where Adenhart starred.

Four baseballs are wedged next to the flowers, including one with the following rain-smudged inscription:

"Thank you Nick for giving us hope. For showing us that big dreams can come true. You were a true hometown hero. We miss you and you will never be forgotten."

Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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