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R.I.P. Nick Adenhart

April 9, 2009

Terrible news today: 22-year old Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Fullerton, hours after he pitched six shutout innings against the Oakland Athletics. The young right-hander was one of the Angels’ top prospects (and their top prospect, according to Baseball America) and had shown immense promise as a future top of the rotation starter.

Edit: Here’s a heartfelt blog entry from MLB.com’s Lyle Spencer, speaking about Adenhart’s character.

Some background information on Adenhart by Baseball America:

Adenhart, the Angels’ 14th-round pick out of Williamsport, Md. high school in 2004, had developed into one the team’s top prospect and had earned a job in the starting rotation with a fine spring training performance.  Baseball America’s most recent organization report on the Angels had detailed how Adenhart was eager to get a second chance at pitching in the majors after a brief stint with Los Angeles last season.

Adenhart was Baseball America’s 2003 Youth Player of the Year after he led his summer league team to a All-American Amateur Baseball Association World Series title. He ended up missing the end of his senior season at Williamsport (Md.) High thanks to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Because of that injury, he was expected to head to college—he had committed to North Carolina. But the Angels took a chance on drafting him anyway, then offered him $710,000 to rehab as a pro instead of heading to college.

It quickly proved to be a wise gamble. Adenhart made a full recovery from the elbow injury to pitch effectively in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2005. The next year he dominated in 16 starts at low Class A Cedar Rapids (10-2, 1.95) and followed it up with a late-season promotion to high Class A Rancho Cucamonga that confirmed his status as one of the Angels’ top prospects.

Adenhart had done nothing in the past two years to change that assesment, and eventually the Angels decided to promote him last summer for three starts in the big leagues, although he struggled in his first taste of the majors. Those struggles carried over to Triple-A upon his return, but he headed into the offseason as the team’s No. 1 prospect, a status he reinforced with a strong spring.

Adenhart pitching, Spring Training 2009

Adenhart pitching, Spring Training 2009

I watched Adenhart pitch a few weeks ago during Spring Training against the Indians, and he looked like he was finally beginning to put it all together. It’s a shame to see such a promising young individual lose their life in such a tragic fashion. Rest In Peace, Nick.

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