Tragedy struck three days into the 2009 season, when 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in an April 9 automobile accident, a devastating blow that could have given the Angels every reason to fold.
Mike Scioscia would not allow that to happen.
The veteran manager helped navigate a grief-stricken team through Adenhart's death and a flurry of injuries to key players to lead the Angels to another division title, a performance that earned Scioscia American League manager-of-the-year honors Wednesday.
Scioscia received 15 of the 28 first-place votes and 106 total points in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America to finish ahead of Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire (72 points) and New York's Joe Girardi (34).
It marked the second time Scioscia has won the award -- he also won in 2002, the year the Angels won the World Series championship -- and it came 10 years to the day he was hired as Angels manager.
"We got hit with some things you have to prepare for and some things you have no way to prepare for," Scioscia said in a conference call.
"Our major league staff did an incredible job of keeping a group of guys that were torn by some really devastating things, things that take a long time to heal from, together. They just kept allowing them to play baseball, and they emerged as a terrific club."
Despite injuries that forced them to use 14 starting pitchers and play long stretches without middle-of-the-order hitters Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels were 97-65, winning their fifth AL West title in six years.
The Angels swept the Boston Red Sox in a three-game division series but were eliminated by the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees in a six-game AL Championship Series.
As he reflected Wednesday on the impact of Adenhart's death, Scioscia said the key to holding the club together was keeping the focus on the pitcher's family and not the Angels.
"The tragedy obviously hit very deep with our guys, but very quickly, everyone in the clubhouse realized it wasn't about us, it was about the Adenhart family and supporting them," Scioscia said. "It gave them a deeper appreciation of playing baseball every day.
"It took a little time, but once they realized they were a good team, that they could keep moving forward with Nick's memory, they relaxed and played baseball. There was no one golden moment when the switch went on and guys picked up the pieces and started playing baseball.
"For a long time, it wasn't easy, but as we started to play the game, they realized there was a purpose to playing this year, and they played terrific baseball."
The Angels were not at their best in the ALCS, committing five errors in the first two games, both losses, and two eighth-inning errors helped the Yankees pull away in Game 6. The Angels batted only .236 and scored 19 runs in the six games.
"The Yankees played great baseball, and they outplayed us," said Scioscia, who has guided the Angels to a 900-720 record since 2000. "It wasn't so much frustration. We played well at times, but at times we opened the door for a team that wasn't going to let up. When you have a good team that's playing well, you have to match that, and we weren't able to do that.
"We didn't reach our final goal, but with the adversity players faced, from struggles in production to being injured to young kids coming up who weren't quite ready but battled to help us win games, I can't say enough about what players did this year."