It was just the beginning of the season… the April dew still lingered on the short blades of grass, the electricity and excitement for a year full of potential filled the air, and just a few hours earlier, a young Angel pitcher by the name of Nick Adenhart had thrown six shut out innings in his season debut. The future was bright. The baseball world was his oyster. And then came the crash.
Nick Adenhart, 22, and two others tragically died in a car accident last April when a drunk driver blew through a red light and struck their vehicle with maximum force. It happened hours after Adenhart took to the field in just his fourth Major League start ever. He had achieved his dream of playing baseball at the highest level. But his family has been living a nightmare every day since.
How could someone so young be taken from this earth so soon? If I am to believe that everything happens for a reason (which I do) what possible reason could there be for this? They’re the kind of questions that only God can truly answer and any answers that do come seem wholly inadequate.
Nick Adenhart was not just a top prospect with tremendous baseball talent and blinding potential, he was a human being, a person who grew up with hopes and dreams just like the rest of us. The only difference was, unlike most of the rest of us, he was blessed to actually live those hopes and dreams, even if it was for less than a year.
I grew up with a dream not too much unlike that of Adenhart’s. From the moment I held a bat at the age of 5, I knew I wanted to be a Major League baseball player. And while that same dream faded for many of my friends as they grew into their teenage years, I held fast, believing with every fiber of my being that I would one day reach the heights of baseball stardom. I had such a passion for the sport that I went straight to Angel Stadium for my first job, selling peanuts and cotton candy. Every day, I would gaze down onto the field and see myself warming up with the team, taking batting practice and eventually running out of the dugout with my jersey billowing over my shoulders. It is a dream that thousands of high school ball players have and yet only a few actually make it to the point of playing on that perfectly manicured baseball Mecca. Nick Adenhart was one of them.
I sit here now, as a broadcast journalist, in utter awe at what a kid with a dream was able to do at the tender age of 22. It really hits home when I think of what I was doing at 22, only 4 short years ago. Though I have no regrets, I was no where near playing professional baseball and that particular dream is only getting smaller as I watch it fade into obscurity in life’s rear view mirror. Adenhart was a man who needed no rear view mirror. His whole life was in front of him. He commanded the respect of a team full of veterans. And he had friends and family who loved him dearly.
Though he was only with the team for a blink of an eye, his memory lived on through the rest of the season. His number, 34, was sown onto the sleeve of every one of his Angel teammates. And a memorial with his image was put up on the center field wall, making for a moving moment when Angel players ran out to gather around it right after beating Boston to advance to the American League Championship Series.
Adenhart was taken too soon in a senseless accident that didn’t need to happen. If ever there was a greater purpose to his tragic death, perhaps it was to remind young people like me to live every day to the fullest, not stopping till we reach our own dreams, no matter how long we may have to enjoy them once we’re there.