With heavy hearts, the Los Angeles Angels returned to the playing field Tuesday evening, one day after the death of 27-year-old pitcher Tyler Skaggs, hoping the game of baseball will provide therapy to help players cope with the loss.
“The game itself can be a refuge for the players where they can turn their minds off and just focus on baseball,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said during an emotional news conference in Arlington, Texas before a 9-4 victory over the Texas Rangers.
“And I don’t know that sitting in a hotel room would do them any good,” he said.
A moment of silence was held prior to the game in memory of Skaggs, who was found dead in a hotel room Monday afternoon in Southlake, Texas. Police said they do not suspect foul play or suicide in his death.
Monday night’s game between the Angels and Rangers was canceled in response to Skaggs’ death.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler said returning to the playing field is “what Tyler would want.” He also said it would allow the players “to get back into a routine.”
“A lot of problems go away when the first pitch is thrown until the last pitch is thrown,” Eppler said, noting that Skaggs will be “weighing heavy on their hearts tonight.”
Grief counselors were made available to team personnel following Skaggs’ death.
“Words cannot express the deep sadness we feel right now,” Angels all-star outfielder Mike Trout wrote on his Twitter page Monday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Carli (Skaggs’ wife) and their families. Remembering him as a great teammate, friend, and person who will forever remain in our hearts… we love you, 45.”
Ausmus said the entire team gathered following news of Skaggs’ death.
“Most importantly, in the end, we were able to talk about Tyler and laugh about some of the stories and some of the goofy things he did, listen to some of his music. So it was good,” Ausmus said, fighting back tears.
Skaggs was a native of Woodland Hills and a graduate of Santa Monica High School. He and his wife Carli were married in December. They had no children.
Skaggs was one of the most popular players in the clubhouse and one of the Angels’ most reliable pitchers this season, going 7-7 with a 4.29 ERA in 79 2/3 innings across 15 starts. He was 28-38 with a 4.41 ERA during a seven-year career that was interrupted by Tommy John surgery in 2014 and several other injuries.
“People were drawn to him,” Eppler said. “He was generous and kind and our team will never be the same without him. … We’ve been made better by him. We are truly grateful to have had the honor to watch him grow and develop over the years.
“Grief is personal to all of us. It doesn’t have a timeline. It doesn’t have a roadmap. But what is most important is that we’ll all be here for each other as a team, as an organization, as a family.”
Skaggs’ death is one of several tragedies the Angels have dealt with over the years. It comes 10 years after 22-year-old pitcher Nick Adenhart and two friends were killed by a drunken driver April 9, 2009, only hours after Adenhart threw the best game of his career.
In the 1970s, infielders Chico Ruiz and Mike Miley and pitcher Bruce Heinbechner were killed in separate auto accidents and outfielder Lyman Bostock was killed in a drive-by shooting while riding in a car with friends in Gary, Indiana.