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Lesson from Nick Adenhart tragedy might help Angels cope with Tyler Skaggs' death

Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If the Los Angeles Angels are to find a measure of closure as they grieve the July 1 death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs, if they are to feel more peace than pain when they think of their fallen teammate and return some sense of normalcy to their season, then Monday's private memorial service for the pitcher could be a therapeutic milestone.

Then again ...

"What is normal?" Angels catcher Dustin Garneau said. "We all lost a really good friend, so I don't know what normal is in this situation. I have no idea what the future holds for us Monday or afterward because not many guys have been through this or experienced something like this."

Kevin Jepsen has. The former Angels reliever was a rookie in 2009, the year 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed along with two friends by a drunken driver in a Fullerton, Calif., intersection April 9, just three days into the season.

Jepsen and Adenhart came up through the minor leagues together and were good friends. They broke camp with the big league club that spring and had lockers next to each other.

Those Angels experienced the same whirlwind of emotions in the two weeks following Adenhart's death as these Angels are now -- shock, grief, denial, anger, pain, sadness, a profound sense of loss.

 

It wasn't until several players, coaches and team officials attended a memorial service for Adenhart in Maryland on April 17 and a private service for the entire team was held in Angel Stadium on April 23 that the fog began to lift.

"Once you put him to rest, it's kind of finalized," said Jepson, who retired in 2018. "Up until that point, you're still not wanting to believe it. You're still waiting for him to walk through that door.

"Once you have the service, it's kind of like, 'OK, this is real, it's not a dream, we're not going to wake up from this.' They're really gone."

The entire Angels team will spend Monday's off day ahead of a two-game series in Dodger Stadium honoring Skaggs, who was 27 when he was found dead in a Southlake, Texas, hotel room. No cause of death has been given, though police did not suspect foul play or suicide.

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