A dozen or so Angels players and a few broadcasters were on the 3 p.m. bus about to depart the Hilton hotel in Southlake, Texas, for Globe Life Park on Monday when traveling secretary Tom Taylor delivered the devastating news.
Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room about 40 minutes earlier, only hours before the opener of a four-game series with the Texas Rangers and three days before the 27-year-old left-hander was scheduled to make his next start.
“I’m in utter shock and disbelief,” general manager Billy Eppler, fighting back tears, said Monday evening. “It’s just a very tragic day for the Angels, a tragic day for his wife, Carli, his mother Debbie [and for] Carli’s mom. Just a tragic day for everybody because this young man touched a lot of peoples’ lives, and you’re going to start to see the impact he’s had on people in the coming days.”
Skaggs was a Santa Monica High graduate whose mother taught and coached softball at the school. He and Carli were married in December. The couple did not have children.
Monday night’s game was postponed until August. The Angels coaches, including manager Brad Ausmus, and the handful of players who were at the stadium early quickly departed for the team’s hotel, located about 20 minutes north of the ballpark. Grief counselors were made available to team personnel.
The release went on to say that “at this time, no foul play is suspected and the investigation is ongoing.” A police department spokesperson said “suicide is not suspected.”
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Tarrant County Medical Examiner in Fort Worth, Texas, said.
Players were not available to be interviewed, but several expressed shock and grief on social media.
FS West commentator Mark Gubicza, a former Angels pitcher who developed a close relationship with Skaggs, was still trying to process the news after delivering an on-air tribute to Skaggs on Monday night.
“It’s mind-boggling,” Gubicza said. “It hasn’t begun to sink in. It doesn’t seem real. He’s like my little son. God, I can’t think about it, really.”
Skaggs was one of the most popular players in the clubhouse, a player who loved talking about his two favorite teams — the Lakers and Minnesota Vikings — and who reveled in team activities like the dress-up day the Angels had for their Sunday night flight to Texas, when they all donned Western-themed attire.
“I saw him on the plane with his cowboy gear on, he was just Tyler being Tyler with his smile,” Gubicza said. “He was laughing, joking around. He’s a funny dude. He’s a baby. He’s a kid. It’s devastating for these guys, because they did everything together. Hugging [Mike Trout], he almost broke my ribs.”
Skaggs had been one of the Angels’ most reliable pitchers this season, going 7-7 with a 4.29 ERA in 79 2/3 innings across 15 starts. He was 28-38 with a 4.41 ERA during a seven-year career that was interrupted by Tommy John surgery in 2014 and several other injuries.
“It’s one of those moments where you’re just kind of numb to life,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I personally heard tremendous things about him, and everybody spoke very highly of him. Our hearts go out to him. We’re thinking about his family, his wife, everybody who knew him. It gives you perspective of how fragile life is.”
Baseball, Eppler said, was just a small part of what defined Skaggs.
“He was very well-liked among his teammates, coaches, performance staff, front office, ownership, people who handle food service, catering … everybody enjoyed being around Tyler,” Eppler said. “He just had a very good way about him that was instilled in him from his upbringing.”
The death of Skaggs is the latest in a string of tragedies to strike the star-crossed franchise and comes 10 years after 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends were killed by a drunk driver April 9, 2009, only hours after Adenhart threw the best game of his brief career. The Angels dedicated their 2009 season to Adenhart, playing through their grief and using the memory of the young right-hander as inspiration, and came within two victories of the World Series, losing to the New York Yankees in a six-game American League Championship Series.
Eppler said it’s too soon to think about how the Angels will move on without Skaggs. The final three games of the series in Texas are scheduled to be played, but Texas GM Jon Daniels said there’s a chance another game will be postponed.
“Right now it’s a time to grieve and reflect on Tyler’s impact,” Eppler said.
The Angels have experience dealing with tragedy. In the 1970s, infielders Chico Ruiz and Mike Miley and pitcher Bruce Heinbechner were killed in separate auto accidents, pitcher Minnie Rojas and catcher Ed Kirkpatrick were paralyzed in car crashes, and outfielder Lyman Bostock was killed in a drive-by shooting while riding in a car with friends in Gary, Ind.
In 1986, one strike away from clinching the AL pennant for the Angels, relief pitcher Donnie Moore gave up a home run that allowed the Boston Red Sox to rally and reach the World Series. Moore, despondent, committed suicide three years later.
At Angel Stadium on Monday evening, dozens of fans stood and somberly stared, only the buzz of the freeway and soft playing of Train’s “Calling All Angels” from a speaker filling the silence.
An Angels fan pays his respects at dusk by lighting candles at a growing memorial at Angel Stadium.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
An Angels fan pauses in front of a memorial sign at Angel Stadium.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Detail of items left by Angels fans at a growing memorial for pitcher Tyler Skaggs at Angel Stadium.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Tim McCann, of Anaheim, views a memorial to Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs on The Big A at Angel Stadium.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Jesse Dominguez, of Anaheim, pays respect to pitcher Tyler Skaggs at Angel Stadium.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
An Angels hat with a message is added alongside a batting helmet, a rally monkey and flowers at a growing memorial in front of Angel Stadium on July 1.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Angels fan Karl Arriola wipes a tear as he spends a quiet moment at Angel Stadium after hearing about Tyler Skaggs’ death on July 1.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
A batting helmet, rally monkey and flowers are some of the items placed by fans at a growing memorial outside Angel Stadium on July 1.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Angels fans Reza Agahi, left, William St. Marseille, center, and Grant Gaynor spend a quiet moment looking at a Tyler Skaggs memorial banner outside Angel Stadium on July 1.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Angels fans spend a quiet moment at a growing memorial outside Angel Stadium after hearing about Tyler Skaggs’ death on July 1.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Angels fan Reza Agahi pays his respects to Tyler Skaggs outside Angel Stadium on July 1.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Angels fan Nancy Dodson spends a quiet moment outside Angel Stadium after learning of Tyler Skaggs’ death on July 1.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Angels fan Ricky Martinez holds a batting helmet with a message while standing in front of Angel Stadium on July 1.(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Fans gather outside Angel Stadium after learning about Tyler Skaggs’ death on July 1.(Jack Harris / Los Angeles Times)
Fans gather outside Angel Stadium after learning of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ death on July 1.(Jack Harris / Los Angeles Times)
“We’re all thinking the same thing, he’s an Angel in our hearts forever,” said Keith Herren, 47, of Tustin. “Hopefully, there’s a field of dreams in the sky and he’s up there playing catch with Nick Adenhart somewhere.”
Former Angels pitcher Jered Weaver was a close friend and teammate of Adenhart’s and was an Angels teammate of Skaggs from 2014 to 2016. He mourned privately, but expressed his feelings on Twitter:
“I am devastated about the passing of my close friend Tyler Skaggs. What a great kid and ultimate competitor. He always wanted to get better, and it was awesome being a part of his development.”
Eppler said he did not have any more information or details about Skaggs’ death than what was released by the police.
“He had a long life ahead of him, and now that’s gone,” Eppler said. “Everybody grieves in their own way, and everybody is going to have to find peace through this eventually, but it’s just a tragic day for everybody, and especially for Tyler’s family.”
Times staff writers Nathan Fenno and Jack Harris contributed to this report.