It was supposed to be opening night at newly dubbed Spring Mobile Ballpark. The Salt Lake Bees and Reno Aces were scheduled to open the Pacific Coast League season at the stadium on Thursday night.
That all changed, however, when word reached Utah that former Bees pitcher Nick Adenhart had died from injuries suffered in an automobile collision early Thursday morning. The 22-year-old was a passenger in a car that
was hit by a van — reportedly driven by a drunken driver — that ran a red light in a Fullerton, Calif., intersection.
Two passengers died at the scene. Adenhart passed away during surgery at the UCI Medical Center in Orange on Thursday morning.
Hour earlier, he had thrown six shutout innings as a starter for the Los Angeles Angels against the Oakland Athletics.
"It's a sad day for the Bees and the Angels organization, very tragic," said Salt Lake manager Bobby Mitchell. "We're all, obviously, saddened by the loss of not only a great pitcher but a great person. We're all going to
miss him terribly.
"And I think it's fair to say that our team, here, will miss him more than anybody because he had a lot of friends on our team that have come up with him through the organization and were very close to him," he continued.
Adenhart spent most of the 2008 season pitching for Salt Lake. His unexpected death prompted both the Angels and Bees to postpone their games Thursday.
"It was really apparent that nobody was ready to play and, given the set of circumstances, it was just the right thing to do and not a difficult decision," said Bees general manager Marc Amicone, who noted that all parties involved were supportive of the action.
"This is a lot more important than a baseball game. I hope and believe our fans will understand this decision and will come back this weekend, the opening weekend, and help show their support of Nick," he continued. "This
is not just about the Salt Lake Bees or the Los Angeles Angels. This is about Nick and his teammates. We need to support these guys. It was the right thing not to play tonight."
Mitchell explained that the decision was made out of respect to Adenhart.
"It would have been very difficult to go out and play a game tonight with this on (the team's) mind," he said. "Opening Day is supposed to be a fun time and it kind of turned into something very difficult for everybody. I
think we did the right thing from an organizational standpoint."
The Bees plan to honor Adenhart with a moment of silence before tonight's season-opener. His Salt Lake jersey No. 32 will be placed on the team's uniforms and a locker in the clubhouse will be set aside in Adenhart's memory. In addition, the American flag at the stadium will fly at half-mast throughout the opening series.
"I think that will help everybody," said Mitchell. "He's not going to be forgotten, ever. But this, hopefully, will help people move on a little bit."
Adenhart worked his way up the majors after blowing out his elbow as a high school senior. The injury, which dropped him from a projected first-round draft pick to the 14th round, was so severe that it required Tommy John reconstructive surgery.
Following minor league stints in Orem, Cedar Rapids, Rancho Cucamonga and Arkansas, the 2003 Baseball America Youth Player of the Year reached the Triple-A level as a 21-year-old.
Adenhart's promotion to Salt Lake last season put him just one step away from his dream of playing in the majors.
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