Outside the main entrance of Angel’s baseball stadium in Anaheim California, there is a brick replica of a pitching mound. It is built to the exact height and diameter the real one inside so the children may stand on it and dream. Last night it served as a memorial for the fans that gathered for the game that would not be played.
The previous night, at 7:05 PM, a young man last seen laboring in Tempe Arizona in the Valley of the Sun, strode with a confidence that belied his 22 years of age and his two months of major league experience onto the real pitcher’s mound inside the stadium. Over the next two hours, he pitched. In the end he would throw six shutout innings, leave with a lead, and win a major league game. It had taken him five years of arm rehabilitation to reach this night. While he had had what they call in the Major Leagues “a cup of coffee” with the team last year and been awarded a win, this was the night he proved he belonged here. He was so certain after his successful spring that “something special would happen,” he had talked his father Jim into flying in from Maryland to watch his first start of the new season. He left the game with that special glow of a winner, of a man who had worked hard to reach this place and now had tasted the sweetness of his dream. For all those years he had one hope and now he appeared to achieve it. He was going to be an important part of this Major League Baseball team.
At 3 AM the next morning, Jim Adenhart received the call. The young man that he had raised, loved, hoped, and prayed for, who had just touched the face of his dream was dead.
Nick Adenhart was raised in Maryland. He was the National High School Player of the Year when he was 18 years old and his life could not have been better when he heard something pop in his elbow during a playoff game. The pain that followed was both physical and mental. He saw the dream slipping away. Yet rather than accept that, he wanted to have his arm surgically repaired and, with his 3.2 GPA, was prepared to go to college and prove that he could still throw a baseball as he had before. He would no longer be the first player chosen in that year’s player draft and sign for a very large bonus, but to Nick that was okay. He would prove to them he still knew how to pitch in college and they would have to recognize his talent then.
The scout for the mid Atlantic Region of the Los Angeles Angels Baseball Club didn’t give up on Nick. He convinced the team to take him in a late round and Nick to rehabilitate under the team’s supervision instead of going to college. That began a five-year odyssey for through the Arizona Developmental League. He arm became strong as he worked those hard long days in the shadows hoping that one day he would be better than just “good enough to dream.” On April 8, 2009 he proved he was. In the late night hours of April 9, while riding with friends to a celebration of that fact, he passed through an intersection nine miles from the mound on which he had proven himself. The light was green and all was right with the world until a minivan ran the red light at an estimated sixty miles an hour.
Two hours later, Jim learned from the doctors that nothing more could be done for his son. He left the hospital. He went to the stadium which the team unlocked for him. He went to the clubhouse, sat in front of his son’s locker, and cried for an hour in perhaps the first of many private memorial services.
He returned eight hours later and met with the team as he had requested to thank them for being so kind to his boy, thanking the veteran players who had befriended him, the rookies with whom he had labored, the manager who had given him his chance, and the scout who had believed in him. The clubhouse attendant gave him the team jersey his son had worked those long hard five years to earn and had worn the night before.
When he was done, he went out on the empty field where the flags were now at half-mast. On this warm April afternoon he walked slowly to the mound and stood where his son had less than 24 hours before, looked up and then all around, heaved a sigh and walked to the tunnel to take Nick home.
No one will ever know how good a pitcher Nick Adenhart might have become. Yet he had one moment when he knew in all his youthful certainty that his five long years of hard work when no one knew his name had made him good enough to embrace his dream.
In your prayer to your personal God for Jim Adenhart, ask that he find that enough.