As a crosschecker for the Orioles, Dean Albany typically roots for an American League East team to represent the AL in the World Series. After all, an AL East presence in the Fall Classic — as has been the case each of the last two seasons and nine of the prior 14 — reminds the rest of the industry how challenging the division is.
This year, however, Albany will change his allegiance. No offense to the Yankees.
"In this case, I'm rooting for the Angels," Albany said in a telephone interview. "Just because of this."
"This" is the tragic death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, who was killed by an alleged drunk driver on the night of April 9. The Angels have repeatedly saluted their fallen teammate. When they clinched the AL West at home, they saluted Adenhart by placing an unopened bottle of champagne at his unoccupied locker, and then parading his jersey around the clubhouse.
And when Vladimir Guerrero delivered the series-winning hit off Jonathan Papelbon, to complete the first-round sweep of Boston, Guerrero called it the biggest hit of his career and then dedicated it to Adenhart's memory.
The Adenhart family — some of whom still live in Western Maryland, others of whom live in the Chicago area — has monitored and appreciated all of the gestures, said Albany, who keeps in touch with them.
"I'm sure it's a bit tear-jerking for them," Albany said. "But they watch."
While some in the yakosphere questioned the symbolism of using champagne to honor Adenhart — who, after all, died because of someone's misuse of alcohol — Albany said, "I thought it was awesome. Nick would've been right in the middle of that. I know the family was good with that."
Albany met Adenhart when the pitcher was just 14 years old, as Adenhart played for the Oriolelanders, a showcase team sponsored by the Orioles. The Yankees' Mark Teixeira and the White Sox's Gavin Floyd, also both Maryland natives, played for the team.
But Albany and Adenhart developed a special bond, even after Albany's Orioles passed on Adenhart in the amateur draft. Said Albany: "Nick was a great kid. He was awesome. I'm not talking about the ability to play the game. He was always worrying about his teammates and never worrying about himself."
The small, quiet town of Williamsport, where Adenhart went to high school, has largely moved on, according to sportswriter Bob Parasiliti of the Herald-Mail newspaper in nearby Hagerstown. "You'll see the occasional Angels, hat, or Adenhart jersey," Parasiliti said, but not all over the place. A small circle of friends will watch the Angels games at a Buffalo wings restaurant in an area mall.
Yet the Angels have ensured that Adenhart won't be forgotten. Angels manager Mike Scioscia has vowed to speak this offseason at a banquet for the Nick Adenhart Memorial Fund, Parasiliti reported. And Adenhart's younger brother, Henry, spent a day with the team when it played the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Everyone that knew Nick knew where Torii Hunter is coming from" with his enthusiasm about honoring Adenhart, Albany said. It's why the Angels have some more East Coast support this year — if not in great numbers, then in passion.