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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL


MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
As the sounds of silence enveloped the clubhouse, Mike Matheny retrieved a watch from his locker.

There is no right way to face sudden death, in life or in Baseball. There is no way at all to predict how the Angels might respond to the death of Nick Adenhart, to play out a season over which they have lost all emotional control.

Darryl Kile died of a heart attack seven years ago, in the middle of the season. The St. Louis Cardinals heard the news all at once, in the Wrigley Field clubhouse, after batting practice. Matheny needed that watch, right away.

It was a present from Kile, a token of gratitude for the catcher who shepherded him toward a 20-win season. In his hand, in that cramped clubhouse, Matheny cradled the watch.

"He pulled the pin right there, to stop it at the time he had heard about Darryl," J.D. Drew said Friday.

Drew mourned that year too, as another of Kile's teammates. He told the story in the visiting clubhouse at Angel Stadium on Friday, one day after the Angels lost Adenhart in a car crash.

The Angels went back to work Friday, with Adenhart's jersey hanging in their dugout and a picture of him affixed to the outfield wall. Kile's Cardinals also went back to work after one day of mourning, with Kile's jersey hanging in their dugout.

"We had Darryl first and foremost in our thoughts," Drew said. "We were all still in shock."

The Angels were still in shock Friday. Joe Saunders and Dustin Moseley, the two players who agreed to talk with reporters before the game, spoke in subdued tones.

Moseley talked about how the players met with Adenhart's father Thursday, extending hugs and sharing how proud the Angels were of Adenhart.

"I'm sure God is proud to know him right now," Moseley said.

Said Saunders: "I hadn't cried since I was 11. Just to see the sheer emotion on his father's face tears you apart."

The Cardinals went through this twice in seven years, through the deaths of Kile and Josh Hancock during the season.

Yet Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said he had not consulted Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa, or any other manager, to get a sense of the emotional road ahead for the Angels and how to navigate it.

"There's not an instructional manual that's going to have you handle everything the same," Scioscia said.

No manager in Baseball controls his clubhouse as well as Scioscia. In triumph or in grief, Scioscia is in charge.

"He is a rock," owner Arte Moreno said.

"We're just trying to let the guys know it's OK to have the feelings we're all having," Scioscia said. "A heavy heart is certainly normal."

Not just for the players. Moreno noticed the Angels' coaches reminding Scioscia that he did not need to suppress his emotions to be a leader, that he could have those feelings too.

"We're all here together," Moreno said.

Scioscia and the Angels can find refuge between the foul lines.

"It's almost like a haven," Scioscia said. "I think that's the least of our worries. We'll be playing Baseball.

"We'll handle the other stuff as it happens."

That other stuff could be anything, at any time.

It could be Saunders pulling out his Washington Redskins shirt, smiling or crying at the memory of Adenhart wearing his Redskins shirt to the ballpark for his last game.

It could be Moseley checking in with his little brother, happy or sad as he remembers that kid brother is the same age as Adenhart.

It could be anyone on the team, inspired or emotionally overwhelmed at the sight of Adenhart's locker, home and away, day in and day out, for the rest of the season.

"At a point, everything kind of moves on," Drew said. "That's how it is in everyday life, through tragedy.

"You have to move on, as much as you don't want to. You move on from the pain of the tragedy to a lighthearted side, to remembering what a good guy he was. That's more of what guys took from Darryl down the road."

The Angels will get there too, in their own way and on their own time, perhaps in time for October. The Cardinals lost five of the first seven games after Kile died, but they made the playoffs.

No one threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Angel Stadium. The Angels held the spot open for Adenhart's father, who declined amid his tears. We'd love to see him back here in October, throwing out the first pitch for the playoffs, with his son's jersey on his back and a smile on his face.

--

bill.shaikin@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 11, 2009

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