For the Angels, a promising young arm arrives -- and then is lost
The death of pitcher Nick Adenhart, hours after his most impressive outing, is the latest calamity to strike the Angels.
Robert Vargas, left, and Jason Lozano were among the many fans who stopped at Angel Stadium to leave flowers and remember pitcher Nick Adenhart. More photos >>> (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times / April 9, 2009)
FOR THE RECORD: An article in Friday's A section on the death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart quoted a fan as saying she went to Angel Stadium on Thursday to buy tickets but that "tonight's game" had been postponed. Actually, she wanted tickets to Thursday's game, which was postponed; Friday's game is still scheduled.
But a few hours after the most impressive game of his brief career -- just seven miles from the mound where he threw six scoreless innings -- the 22-year-old right-hander was killed by an alleged drunk driver, the latest calamity in a baseball franchise haunted by a history of misfortunes.
Adenhart and two friends were killed early Thursday morning when their car was broadsided by a driver who police said had a suspended license and a previous drunk driving conviction. The news of the young pitcher's death stunned friends, teammates and fans, some driving to the Fullerton intersection to place flowers and candles in the roadway and others going to Anaheim Stadium, seemingly just to be there.
"It's not fair," said Christina Jimenez, an ardent Angels fan who heard the news Thursday morning and went to the stadium to buy tickets to tonight's game so she could support her favorite team and Adenhart's extended family.
The game, however, was canceled and the only activity at the stadium beyond a growing memorial built by fans was a somber news conference attended by team officials.
Fighting tears, and finally lowering his head as he sobbed, Adenhart's agent, Scott Boras, said the pitcher had been elated with his performance in Wednesday night's game against the Oakland A's.
"He felt like a major leaguer," Boras said. "His life's goal was to be a major league baseball player, and he certainly achieved that standard."
The pitcher's death was another painful addition to a lengthy list of tragedies that have shadowed the club, from the fatal drive-by shooting of a star outfielder to the suicide of a relief pitcher who blamed himself for a playoff loss that cost the team a trip to the World Series.
After Wednesday's game, Adenhart was traveling in a Mitsubishi Eclipse driven by a friend, Courtney Frances Stewart, 20, of Diamond Bar, along with passengers Henry Pearson, 25, and Jon Wilhite, 24, both of Manhattan Beach.
Police said the four had just left Stewart's apartment and were headed to a nearby dance club, In Cahoots, when they passed through a green light at the intersection of Orangethorpe Avenue and Lemon Street just after midnight.
There, police said, a Toyota Sienna minivan driven by 22-year-old Andrew Thomas Gallo of Riverside blew through a red light at 50 to 60 mph and struck the Eclipse.
Pearson, whom friends described as a law student, was killed along with Adenhart and Stewart, a Cal State Fullerton student. Wilhite, a former catcher for the Cal State Fullerton team, was in critical condition at UC Irvine Medical Center.
Police said Gallo, convicted in San Bernardino County of drunk driving in 2006 and marijuana possession the following year, ran from the scene but was quickly apprehended.
Fullerton Police Lt. Kevin Hamilton said his department planned to seek felony hit-and-run driving, DUI, vehicular manslaughter and, possibly, murder charges. A decision could be made today.
Gallo's passenger, Raymond Alexander Rivera, 21, of Covina was taken to a hospital, but his condition was unknown. A third vehicle driven by Esteban Quiroz, 33, was involved, but there were no reports of injuries.
A makeshift shrine to Adenhart grew throughout the day on the brick pitcher's mound outside the entrance to Angel Stadium, where fans left bouquets and other mementos. A sign read: "No. 34. One more Angel in Heaven." Adenhart's Angels jersey was draped over the dais at the stadium news conference, where Boras was overcome by emotion.
"Nick's parents, Jim and Janet, wanted me to convey to the entire Angel organization the privilege and . . ." He stopped, his eyes filled with tears. "He's a great kid."
Adenhart's father traveled to Anaheim to watch his son pitch Wednesday night and Boras said he recalled telling him something special might happen. Boras said he spoke with the young pitcher after the game and sensed his elation with his performance