How good would he have been?

In Seattle now with the Angels, feeling their pain and unimaginable sense of desolation over the loss of Nick Adenhart, I am trying to carry on, but I still am numb, disoriented, not entirely here. My coping abilities clearly have limits.

It’s been six days. Six decades won’t be long enough to get over this.

This is essentially what Shane Loux was saying yesterday after a remarkable performance against the Mariners on a frigid day at Safeco Field in front of a packed house that had come to welcome Ken Griffey Jr. back to his original baseball home. We use the word courage much too often in sports, but I feel it’s a courageous effort for the Angels to just take the field at this time, let alone play the game at a high level.

Loux expressed a sentiment shared, I’m sure, by every Angels player, coach, manager Mike Scioscia and the entire organizational staff when he said Nick was in his thoughts all day long – and hasn’t left his thoughts since the horrible news came on Thursday morning.

The reader response to my post on Nick was heartwarming, but it also served to drive home the enormity of this loss. He was just getting started. I can’t seem to get past that right now, how it was all in front of him.

Friends have called, expressing various reactions, and one question I’m asked over and over is this: How good would Nick Adenhart have been if his career had played itself out?

My response generally goes something like this: “He’d have been great. How great, obviously, we’ll never know.” And that’s just tragic beyond words. He should have been allowed to fulfill his destiny.

When I first started watching Nick seriously, in 2008 in Arizona during Spring Training, I saw a remarkable resemblance in manner to Bobby Welch in his early days with the Dodgers. I recall writing something about that and then discussing it with Nick. I was drawn to his easy, laid-back manner, how he was so interested in everything I had to say about the game he loved. A lot of young people are preoccupied, quite naturally, with their own lives, but I sensed that Nick really enjoyed hearing about players from earlier times, what made them tick.

I also told him all about Don Sutton, another pitcher I covered who made it to the Hall of Fame with tools very similar to those of Nick Adenhart. Sutton wasn’t overpowering, but he could put his fastball where he wanted it and had a big, over-the-top curveball that complemented it beautifully. Sutton was a serious student of the game as a young man, absorbing everything he could, and that went a long way in making him the durable craftsman he became across two decades.

Sutton, I decided, was the type of pitcher Adenhart could become. Nick also had a dynamic changeup to go with the 92-94 mph heater and the 12-to-6 curve, and he had the burning desire to be great. It was concealed by a relaxed, almost nonchalant personal style, but I saw it in his eyes and felt it when we talked.

I’ll cherish for the rest of my days those conversations we had over the past two springs, how thrilled I was to watch him in his final performance against the Athletics. He pitched his way through trouble like a veteran that night, confident and in command.

Before the game, I was talking with Chone Figgins and Howard Kendrick when Nick walked past on his way to the training room. We’d talked about how he’d matured, how ready he was – and he gave me a look and a grin that told me everything I wanted to know.

He was ready for the challenge, fully prepared for the challenges awaiting him. He had found all the answers he’d been searching for, and now it was his time.

So, here’s my answer: I think he could have joined Don Sutton in the Hall of Fame someday. That’s how talented, how driven, Nick Adenhart was as a baseball player. As a person, he was a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, about as good as it gets.

10 Comments

How sad that we will never know. Good Bless all of you.

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

Thank you Lyle, for sharing your thoughts with those of us who knew Nick only from afar. It’s been a tough spring for baseball, a tough winter for the country. Your spirit is in my thoughts and your healing in my prayers. As always, your friend in baseball. . .BeesGal

Great post! Nick was an excellent pitcher but more than that he was an outstanding guy. I had the chance to meet him when he played in Rancho and he was the one kid that would talk to everyone and sign an autograph almost every time someone asked. Billy Joel has the song, “Only the Good Die Young” This is 100% true about Nick!

While we will never know what might have been we will always know who Nick was. An excellent baseball player and an extremely caring guy that just enjoyed living out his dream of being a Major League Baseball Player!

John
Major League Ballhawk
http://ballhawk.mlblogs.com
http://twitter.com/mlballhawk

Thank you Lyle, for sharing your thoughts with those of us who knew Nick only from afar. It’s been a tough spring for baseball, a tough winter for the country. Your spirit is in my thoughts and your healing in my prayers. As always, your friend in baseball. . .BeesGal

I know I am going to get heat for this but, have you ever lost somenone close to you? I have sisters, brother, parents. In there memory I am not going to try and make them something they are not, my sister was 34 when she past and she had 3 young sons. When I think of her I don’t compare her to Mother Theresa I remember her for who she truly was. To say Nick Adenhart was a slam dunk hall of famer is a stupid thing to say, as it takes away from who he truly was, a young up and coming major league pitcher who has been “untouchable” in trade talks, nearly unhittable in the minors and someone who showed a lot of poise and promise on the mound.

Let’s remember Nick for who he was not what you wanted him to be just so you can write about it.

hbmatt-
First of all maybe you didn’t read it correctly:
“I think he COULD have joined Don Sutton in the Hall of Fame someday.”

Nick “truly” was talented enough for the writer to compare him to a Hall of Famer so what is the problem? There were similarities so how is it “something he is not?” I don’t understand critizing this.

Look at Torii’s blog and you will read something heartfelt and true to all parties involved, I just think some “writers” take liberties when there are tragedies like this.

Listen as a lifelong Angel fan and Lover of life I cried like most people while watching the tribute to Nick and as I recall the tribute did not mention a thing about the Hall of Fame because that would take away from the man.

Lyle, Would you be interested in writing for an MLB website that Phil Wilson and I are creating? Phil and I write blogs on the Chicago Cubs, and we want to create a website that covers all 30 teams. If you are interested in being a writer or you have more questions please send me an email: cubsblogmailbag@aol.com.

Thanks, Cubbiefan07

I saw Nick pitch early in spring training this year and could tell that he still had the great stuff he showed in 08 but also had a composure that he didn’t have in 08. As a fan I was devastated when I heard because I knew he was destined to be a foundation player for the next ten or twelve years. On a deeper level it hurts because of the senseless nature of how quickly one irresponsible person can rob three young people of their futures and their families of their children. As a father of two, I can’t imagine anyting worse happening to me or see myself recovering from the loss.

Lyle,
We’ve traded many an e-mail about Angel stats and trade scenario over the years – but it’s been your open hearted coverage of Nick as a person, and the tragedy of his death, that has captured my respect. Please continue to both report, and share your knowledge about the people that most of us only know abstractly as the Angels.

You know better than I, that there is now something much bigger going on within the Angel team (family), than winning baseball games. Life changing events are just that; Each person moves forward individually as they are able. The Angels as a team, must also be given the time to reassemble, and rediscover the passion required for championships. They will all surely grow in character, and wisdom.

All we fans can do is be patient with the team; pray for the parents and family of Nick, Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson; and ensure that each of our own loved ones know that we do.

TCH

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