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High School

Column: Remembering Tyler Skaggs from his Santa Monica High days

skaggs
Santa Monica High’s Tyler Skaggs pitches against Diamond Ranch during a playoff game on May 16, 2008.
(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

Tyler Skaggs was a free-spirited, easily approachable Santa Monica teenager when I first met him in 2008 after hearing about a tall, rapidly developing left-handed high school baseball pitching prospect.

When I found out he was the son of longtime softball coach Debbie Skaggs, everything began to make sense.

His mother was a physical education teacher for more than 20 years. She taught him how to be exceptional and respectful on and off the field. Grades mattered. Effort mattered. Competition mattered.

At Santa Monica High, his velocity kept rising, so much so that professional baseball rather than college baseball became his No. 1 option. He was taken by the Angels as the 40th pick as a supplemental selection in the first round of the 2009 draft.

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He and his family were so excited. There would be obstacles and adversity in his journey to the majors. He was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, then traded back to the Angels in 2013. There would be an injury requiring Tommy John surgery. But he was always upbeat, and with a mother who knew how to deal with ups and downs, there was no way he wouldn’t find his way.

I watched and rooted for him from afar. Just the other day, I saw him on Twitter with a funny video of him interviewing Japanese-speaking Shohei Ohtani trying to drum up support to vote Tommy La Stella into the All-Star game.

The sadness I feel and those who came in touch with him will be immense following his death. I feel for his family most of all. I will remember the smile and spirit he always showed during his Santa Monica High days. The beach, the ocean, the air — it helps creates a personality that people want to embrace. He’s left us but won’t be forgotten. Now’s the time to remember all the joy he brought people through his 27 years.

Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room 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.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: @latsondheimer


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