WILLIAMSPORT, MD., AND SEATTLE — On a crisp, cloudless morning, a tight-knit rural community and a contingent of major league baseball personnel from Southern California joined together at a quaint, red-brick church to honor a young man who bridged divergent worlds.
Nicholas James "Nick" Adenhart, the 22-year-old Angels right-hander from western Maryland who was killed last week in a car accident, was buried Thursday after a private service attended by about 200 people.
Led by a Maryland state trooper, a procession of 70 cars drove five miles to the interment at Greenlawn Memorial Park.
"The community honored Nick Adenhart today," said Tim Mead, the Angels' vice president of communications, who was among 11 club representatives who flew to Maryland. "You just sensed -- certainly the hurt -- but the pride in this community for Nick. It was a very nice service."
Those in attendance included Angels owner Arte Moreno and his wife, Carole, General Manager Tony Reagins, Manager Mike Scioscia, pitching coach Mike Butcher, Angels pitchers Dustin Moseley, Jered Weaver and John Lackey, scouting director Eddie Bane and scout Dan Radcliff, who was credited with having signed an injured Adenhart for $710,000 after he was taken in the 14th round of the 2004 amateur draft.
The players and coaching staff flew in from Seattle on Wednesday night. After the service, Weaver, Lackey and Moseley flew to Minneapolis, where the Angels begin a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins tonight. Scioscia, Butcher, Reagins and Mead returned via private jet to Seattle, arriving about an hour before the Angels took the field for batting practice for Thursday night's game against the Mariners.
The manager, who has stressed all week that the focus should remain on the Adenhart family and not on how the Angels are coping, did not want to talk about the funeral.
"It was very private, and we're going to leave it at that," Scioscia said.
Reagins said the day "was a challenge, but you can't compare it to what the family is going through. . . .
"This is not about the Angels and what we have to go through. It's about them losing a son and what it meant to that entire community.
"You go through tragedies in your life -- I lost my sister, my mother and my father. This is one of those tragedies that will never leave the organization."
A public memorial service will be held today at Adenhart's alma mater, Williamsport High. Organizers were expecting at least 2,000 people to attend.
On April 8, Adenhart, the organization's top prospect, pitched the best game of his brief big league career, throwing six scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics in his fourth major league start.
Hours later, he and two friends were killed in Fullerton, when the Mitsubishi Eclipse they were riding in was struck by a minivan that ran a red light. The driver of the minivan, Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, has been charged with three counts of murder as well as fleeing an accident and DUI-related felonies.
One week later, family and select friends of Adenhart mourned their loss at Downsville Christian, Adenhart's childhood church, which is adjacent to a working farm and across the road from a general store that rents videos, sells sandwiches and has a full wall display of various pieces of fishing equipment -- a world away from the glitz of Southern California and the glare of the major league spotlight.
The service lasted nearly an hour.
"It was hard. It was heartbreaking," said Dean Albany, the Orioles' East Coast cross-checker scout, who managed Adenhart for several years with the high-level select team, the Maryland Orioles. "The hardest thing for me is I still don't believe it happened. You want to pinch yourself and wake up, but you just don't wake up from this."
While at the service, Albany said he could sense what Adenhart meant to the community.
"We all have our own heroes growing up. [Orioles greats] Jim Palmer and Brooks Robinson were my heroes," Albany said. "Nick Adenhart was a lot of people's hero around there. So this was tough on a lot of people, a lot of small kids in that little community."
Butcher, after arriving back at Safeco Field late Thursday afternoon, declined to talk about the service.
It was Butcher who spent several hours with Adenhart's father, Jim, at UCI Medical Center as doctors worked on his son. And it was Butcher who accompanied the father to the morgue to identify the son's body.
Scioscia, in the wake of Adenhart's death, had said "the easiest time for these guys will be playing the game, going between the lines. . . . Once you start playing, the game is like a haven."
But center fielder Torii Hunter acknowledged after Wednesday's 11-3 loss to Seattle that the Angels are having difficulty coping.
"We're human, too -- that tragedy knocked us down," Hunter said. "We're trying to find it. You can tell at the plate; we're better than what we're showing. You can feel the energy is kind of low in the clubhouse. You don't want to make excuses, but man, it's been a tough week."
Reagins feels for his players, but it is only April, there are 154 games left to play, and they have jobs to do.
"We still have to play baseball," Reagins said, "and take every day as it comes."
Five miles from the church, at Williamsport High, more than 30 bouquets of flowers are arranged in the chain-link fence that surrounds the school's baseball field, where Adenhart starred.
Four baseballs are wedged next to the flowers, including one with the following rain-smudged inscription:
"Thank you Nick for giving us hope. For showing us that big dreams can come true. You were a true hometown hero. We miss you and you will never be forgotten."