Los Angeles Times

Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart killed in car crash

Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was among three people killed in a crash in Fullerton when a driver ran a red light, the team said today. The Angels have announced that tonight's game with the Oakland Athletics has been postponed.

The crash occurred hours after the 22-year-old appeared in Wednesday night's Angels game. He died in the accident that occurred shortly after midnight at the intersection of Orangethorpe Avenue and Lemon Street in Fullerton, said Lt. Craig Brower of the Fullerton Police Department.

Several witnesses told police the driver of a red minivan ran a red light at the intersection, hitting a silver Mitsubishi carrying four people. Two people were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, authorities said. Two others were taken to a nearby hospital, where a third person was later pronounced dead, Brower said.

The driver of the minivan fled on foot shortly after the accident, but police found him a mile away and took him into custody on suspicion of hit and run, Brower said.

Further charges are pending as the investigation continues, he said. A passenger in the minivan was taken to a hospital but that person's condition was unknown. A third vehicle also was involved, but there were no reports of any injuries.

The Angels organization was shaken up by the young rookie's death. General Manager Tony Reagins issued a 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 family, friends, loved ones and fans."

Adenhart's rise with the Angels reflected his faith in the team and the team's faith in modern medicine. As a senior at Williamsport High School in Silver Spring, Md., in 2004, Adenhart was projected to be one of the top picks in baseball's annual draft, which would have made him an instant millionaire.

However, two weeks before the draft, Adenhart suffered an elbow injury so severe that reconstructive surgery would be required.

The Angels picked him anyway, in the 14th round of the draft, where signing bonuses generally run four figures instead of seven. At that point, Adenhart had planned to have the operation, then attend the University of North Carolina, play for its baseball team after rehabilitation and rebuild his status as a prospect.

But the Angels, confident in the success of the procedure popularly known as "Tommy John surgery," convinced Adenhart to sign with them and rehabilitate under their care. They persuaded him in part with a $710,000 signing bonus, roughly what he would have made had he been drafted in the second round.

The Adenhart accident is just the latest in a string of tragedies that have befallen the Angels. Infielders Chico Ruiz and Mike Miley and pitcher Bruce Heinbechner were all killed in separate car accidents between 1972 and '77, and pitcher Minnie Rojas and catcher Ed Kirkpatrick were paralyzed in car crashes. Outfielder Lyman Bostock was killed in a drive-by shooting while riding in a car with friends in Gary, Ind., during the 1978 season.

Early in the 1992 season, one of two buses carrying the Angels from New York to Baltimore was involved in a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike that left first-year manager Buck Rodgers with a fractured rib, a broken knee and a fractured elbow. And last season, special assistant Preston Gomez was gravely injured when he was hit by a truck at a gas station on his way back from spring training.

Gomez never recovered, dying in January at a Fullerton care center not far from the site of Adenhart's accident this morning. Adenhart was wearing a memorial patch with Gomez's name on it when he took the mound Wednesday night.

When St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile was found dead in his Chicago hotel room in June 2002, that day's game with the Cubs at Wrigley Field was abruptly postponed.

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," his family said in a statement. " 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."

Memorial services are pending.



Times staff writers Kevin Baxter and Ruben Vives contributed to this report.

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