As crushing a blow as the death of Nick Adenhart was to the Angels, who lost a teammate, a friend and a promising young pitcher, the automobile accident that killed the 22-year-old right-hander a year ago Friday was doubly devastating for third baseman Brandon Wood.
Also killed in the crash, which occurred only hours after Adenhart threw six shutout innings against the Oakland Athletics in Angel Stadium, were Henry Pearson, a 25-year-old aspiring sports agent, and Courtney Stewart, a 20-year-old Cal State Fullerton student.
Wood played several minor league seasons with Adenhart, and the two were teammates on a 2006 Olympic qualifying team that won a tournament in Cuba. He was also good friends with Pearson, whom he met through friends at Arizona State seven years ago.
For months, all Wood could think about when he recalled his buddies was the horrific scene at that Fullerton intersection, where suspected drunken driver Andrew Thomas Gallo allegedly drove his minivan through a red light and plowed into a car carrying Adenhart and three friends.
"The same scenarios went through your head — the crash and the guy who did it," Wood said. "Slowly, over time, I'd start thinking about Henry and the times he came over to my house for New Year's Eve, and I'd think about Nick and the times we had in Cuba. I started thinking about the fun times we had instead of the crash."
The Angels will mark the one-year anniversary of Adenhart's death by presenting Jered Weaver with the Nick Adenhart pitcher-of-the-year award before Friday night's game against the A's, the same team that was in Anaheim the night Adenhart died.
Weaver pitched the team's first game after the crash, delivering 6 2/3 strong innings in an emotionally charged, 6-3 victory over Boston in Angel Stadium last April 10. Adenhart was set to move into Weaver's Long Beach house that weekend.
"A day has not gone by where I haven't thought about Nick," Weaver said. "I think that's going to be a for-the-rest-of-my-life thing. He's too good a person not to remember."
Weaver pitched through the pain last season, going 16-8 with a 3.75 earned-run average and carving Adenhart's initials in the dirt behind the mound before every start. Today, he continues to draw inspiration from his fallen friend and teammate.
"Not every day is promised — that could have been any one of us in that crash," Weaver said. "Something like that happens, you can't help but take life in a different perspective. If you have a bad game, there are worse things that can happen.
"This is supposed to be fun. Not everybody gets a chance to play professional baseball, so you might as well take it all in while you have the opportunity, because it's not going to last forever."
A relief corps that combined for 10 scoreless innings in the first three games had Manager Mike Scioscia projecting that, "from start to the finish, this could be the deepest bullpen we've had."
Wait a minute. Deeper than the 2002 bullpen, which featured closer Troy Percival, setup men Francisco Rodriguez and Brendan Donnelly and was dominant in the team's run to the World Series championship?
Scioscia reminded reporters that his 2002 bullpen didn't emerge as a force until the second half. Donnelly had a 6.14 ERA in the first half and a 1.49 ERA in the second half. Rodriguez, then a 20-year-old phenom, wasn't called up to the big leagues until September.
In front of closer Brian Fuentes this season, the Angels have power arms in Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen, Scot Shields, Jason Bulger and Brian Stokes.
"In 2002, you saw a power bullpen as we got into the playoffs," Scioscia said. "But this bullpen, from start to finish, we think we're going to have a good arm every night to hold leads."