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Former LBSU hurler shines in tribute to fallen teammate

Sports connects people from different walks of life

Tracy McDannald, Sports editor

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Former Long Beach State pitcher Jered Weaver was supposed to help fellow teammate Nick Adenhart move in with him Sunday.

Instead, the Los Angeles Angels starter had to figure out how to pitch and grieve for his teammate at the same time Friday night at Angel Stadium.

Adenhart, 22, was killed in a hit-and-run car accident just past midnight in Fullerton Thursday that also took the lives of two others — including Cal State Fullerton student Courtney Stewart, 20, and Manhattan Beach resident Henry Nigel Pearson, 25. Former CSUF catcher Jon Wilhite, 24, was also in the vehicle and is listed in critical condition at UCI Medical Center.

The Angels postponed Thursday’s scheduled contest.

Weaver honored Adenhart with 6 2/3 dazzling innings against the Boston Red Sox, allowing just an unearned run on four hits while striking out eight in a 6-3 victory. Before disappearing into the Angels dugout, Weaver left to a standing ovation and pointed to the heavens in memory of Adenhart.

The 6-foot-7 right-hander was visibly carrying a heavy heart along with his teammates and the crowd of 41,385. Weaver, who usually draws his grandparents’ names on the dirt on the back of the mound before every start, etched “N.A.” on the hill Adenhart showcased his potential Wednesday night.

Making just his fourth career start, the rookie threw six scoreless innings and struck out five against the Oakland Athletics in what would be his final Major League appearance. It was easily the best performance of his young career.

In times of tragedy, baseball — and life, in general — has a magical way of bringing meaning to prior events. Adenhart reportedly told his father to make sure to fly out for his start — and he did — because he felt something special was going to happen.

A St. Louis Cardinals fan, as well as an Angels fan, that immediately had me thinking about the days pitcher Darryl Kile and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck died.

Kile pitched the Cardinals into first place in the National League Central Division on June 18, 2002 — the same night Buck would die. Four days later, Kile didn’t report to Wrigley Field in Chicago and was found dead in his hotel room.

Adenhart’s death also brought back memories of Josh Hancock, another Cardinals pitcher who was killed in a drunk driving accident in 2007.

Despite experiencing those past similar tragedies with the teams I root for, Friday night wasn’t any easier to deal with.

It started early in the pregame broadcast when Angels fans were shown paying tribute at the spontaneous memorial, which was decorated with candles, flowers and handmade signs, located at the home plate gate entrance of the ballpark. Then, just before the first pitch, players from both teams stood on the first- and third-base lines in the infield and a video tribute to Adenhart played on the big screen beyond right field.

Angels pitcher John Lackey and center fielder Torii Hunter held Adenhart’s jersey with their heads bowed during a moment of silence.

As the players ran out to their positions, Hunter couldn’t help but touch the image he was looking at on the wall in center. It was of Adenhart and his No. 34, which the Angels will also wear a patch of over the heart of their jerseys for the remainder of the season. Weaver did the same during pregame warm-ups, taking a knee to say a prayer.

The reminders around the ballpark didn’t stop there.

In the dugout, Adenhart’s jersey hang beside the batting helmets. The rookie’s locker remained in the clubhouse and will reportedly be for the remainder of the season. The Angels played with 24 men on the active roster, instead of the maximum 25.

The one memory that remained visible throughout Fox Sports Net’s telecast was Adenhart’s No. 34 painted on the back of the mound.

It was only fitting his roommate Weaver took the mound in the team’s return to the field.

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