A RING FOR THE ADENHARTS
The Los Angeles Angels at Anahiem defeated the Texas Ranger last night in Anahiem. They are now the Western Division Champions.
Somewhere in Maryland, Jim Adenhart was smiling
As with all the alpha male celebratory nonsense that goes along with such victories, they all piled on each other on the field before they headed for the clubhouse and the obligatory loud music, champagne spraying, beer drinking, dancing by themselves and yelling at the top of their lungs.
When they got there, there were two things waiting. The manager, Mike Scioscia, and a jersey that had been in the dugout for every home game this year. Before any corks popped or cans were opened, they bowed their heads.
Before revelry came remembrance.
Kevin Jepsen is a young pitcher on this now this Championship Team. He is a rookie. Rookies are given jobs to do. This year, his was to take the the jersey with # 34 and ADENHART on the back out of the locker next to him and hang it in the dugout before every game. For Jepsen, this was no chore.
Scioscia reminded everyone what Nick had meant to them all and how he would be with them as long as they could make this season last. They owed him their best just as they owed it to each other. He was there all year, that is what teammates do for each other.
The corks popped, the silliness began as it always will in such moments in this game. When that was done, the team jogged en masse to the center field wall where Nick Adenhart's picture remains in mid-pitching motion. Some tapped his the face for luck, some bowed their heads, someone poured beer over the head of their teammate.
They spoke to reporters of what he meant to them this year, how they came out of their grief two months after his death playing badly at 29-29, and on June 11 and lost a particularly ugly game to the Tampa Bay Rays 11-1, the Manager closed the clubhouse and, among other things, ask them if this was how they wanted Nick to remember them? They were better than that.
Since then, the are 63-35.
Tori Hunter, the team's talented and loquacious centerfielder said of the young man he had befriended in spring training, " He should be here celebrating with us...now we are celebrating his name. We're playing hard for him. Trust me. He is here in spirit and in love."
"We 're going to try to bring a ring back for him and give it to his parents. This is the first step."
Mike Butcher, the laconic pitching coach who has talked to the family once a week all summer said he was never the type to use a loss such as Nick's as motivation, but he thought the players did.
"You never know how people grieve," he told a reporter. "but there was someone there for everyone of our guys every day, and that's what you expect of a teammate." As he looked at the larger than life picture of Nick Adenhart, Butcher went on, " That's bigger than baseball."
In a week or so, the Angels will continue their season. They will most likely play the Boston Red Sox in a series that will determine if they get to play for the American League Championship.
Nick would be proud of them.