Angels rookie and former Bees pitcher Adenhart dies in car crash

Published: Thursday, April 9 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Bees pitcher Nick Adenhart as the Salt Lake Bees and the Tacoma Rainers play baseball in Salt Lake City July 8, 2008. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Bees pitcher Nick Adenhart as the Salt Lake Bees and the Tacoma Rainers play baseball in Salt Lake City July 8, 2008. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart and two other people were killed Thursday when a minivan ran a red light and struck their car.

Adenhart, 22, died in surgery at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, Fullerton police said in a statement. He was a passenger in the car.

Adenhart's death came just hours after he made his fourth major league start, throwing six scoreless innings in Wednesday night's loss to Oakland.

"His father flew out here from Baltimore to watch him start last night, so his father is here, obviously going through a great deal of grief," Angels spokesman Tim Mead said.

The Angels confirmed Adenhart's death in a statement and said no other members of their organization were involved in the accident. A 24-year-old man who was in the same car remained hospitalized in critical condition, police said.

Pitcher Nick Adenhart of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. (Eric Risberg, Associated Press) Pitcher Nick Adenhart of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team. (Eric Risberg, Associated Press)

A preliminary test indicated the driver of the minivan had a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit, police Lt. Kevin Hamilton said at a news conference.

"The Angels family has suffered a tremendous loss today. We are deeply saddened and shocked by this tragic loss. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Nick's family, friends' loved ones and fans," general manager Tony Reagins said.

The team said Adenhart was survived by his parents, Jim and Janet.

"He lived his dream and was blessed to be part of an organization comprised of such warm, caring, and compassionate people," the family said in a statement issued through the team.

"The Angels were his extended family. Thanks to all of Nick's loyal supporters and fans throughout his career. He will always be in everyone's hearts forever."

The Major League Baseball Players Association said its members were shaken and saddened about the accident.

"Just hours before the accident, Nick demonstrated his passion for baseball and his prospects for a very bright future when he pitched six scoreless innings for the Angels," the association said in a statement. Adenhart, of Silver Spring, Md., was the Angels' No. 3 starter.

Adenhart and three other people were in a silver Mitsubishi sedan that was broadsided at an intersection shortly before 12:30 a.m. by a minivan that apparently ran a red light, the police statement said. The impact spun around both vehicles, and one then struck another car but that driver was not hurt, police Lt. Kevin Hamilton said.

The Mitsubishi struck a light pole. Adenhart was taken to a hospital and died while a 20-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man were pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Their names were not immediately released.

Police Lt. Craig Brower said the minivan driver fled the crash scene on foot and was captured a short time later.

Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, of Riverside, fled but was arrested a half-hour later for investigation of felony hit-and-run driving. He was taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries from the crash and could face charges including vehicular manslaughter or possibly murder, Hamilton said.

There was no immediate word on his condition.

Gallo had a previous drunken driving conviction and was driving with a suspended license, police said. A 21-year-old passenger in the van was treated for minor injuries at a hospital.

Fans, some wearing Angels shirts or carrying flowers, gathered at the intersection Thursday.

Adenhart, a right-hander, earned a spot in the starting rotation on an injury-plagued Angels staff by impressing manager Mike Scioscia late in spring training.

The pitcher made his major league debut May 1 of last year, also against Oakland. He made two other starts, getting his only decision in a victory over the Chicago White Sox on May 12. He was 37-28 in the minor leagues from 2005-08, including 9-13 last year at Triple-A Salt Lake.

Salt Lake Bees manager Bobby Mitchell issued the following statement on behalf of the team: "This is such a shock and tragic loss for all of us in the Angels family, not because he was a great pitcher but because he was a great person. It's tough to lose somebody like that at such an early age. We all loved him very much. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

Aaron Wells was Adenhart's athletic trainer in 2005 when he played for Utah's Orem Owlz, a rookie league affiliate with the Angels.

"It was very obvious that he was going to be a successful professional pitcher," said Wells, now the team's general manager. "Very humble, extremely good in the club house. He was just such an unassuming guy, just went out and did his business."

Players and staff around the major leagues remembered Adenhart on Thursday, with some teams holding moments of silence in his memory before their games.

"Here today, gone tomorrow, you never know," Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "That's why you've got to enjoy today. That's sad."

"A young man realizes his dream of making the big leagues, pitches six shutout innings, drives home and he's gone," New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Your heart goes out to that young man and his family. It makes you realize how precious life is. You have to be happy to wake up every day."

Baltimore Orioles manager Dave Trembley had watched Wednesday's Athletics-Angels game on television.

"It really puts things in perspective," he said. "Don't take anything for granted, No. 1. Appreciate what you have."

The Angels' game against Oakland on Thursday night was postponed after commissioner Bud Selig conferred with Los Angeles owner Arte Moreno.

"Nick was just 22 years of age, with a wonderful life and career ahead of him," Selig said in a statement.

"The first thing you think about is his parents, his family," Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "It shouldn't take a great deal to have perspective in this game, but when something like that happens, it brings you back down to earth."

Indians infielder Ryan Garko remembered seeing Adenhart during spring training.

"Reality just kind of sets in, that this is a game, that this is a job, that there are a lot more important things in life," Garko said. "He seemed like a young kid just to me, I'm only 28. Just terrible. Just anytime to see a young kid go before his time. Just sad for a family."

In Halfway, Md., an unincorporated community 75 miles west of Baltimore where Adenhart played Little League, residents recalled him as a fun-loving youth whose following grew as his talent ripened.

"It's heartbreaking," said Staci Boward, president of Halfway Little League.

Tim McSherry, a neighbor, said Adenhart was a jokester and a Wiffle Ball fanatic who, along with another neighbor boy, challenged their parents and coaches to a Wiffle Ball tournament in their early teens.

The community cheered Adenhart on as his talent matured at nearby Williamsport High School, he said.

"That was a common bond for a lot of people: 'Hey, you going over to see Nick tonight?'" McSherry said.

AP writer Elizabeth White in Salt Lake City and baseball writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

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