- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

ANAHEIM, CALIF. (AP) - Jerseys and pants were hung up, shoes were lined up neatly in a row, baseballs and a glove rested on a shelf and a tall jar of dirt from the pitcher’s mound stood on the top of a lineup card.

It looked as though Nick Adenhart had momentarily stepped away from his locker in a corner of the Los Angeles Angels’ clubhouse.

But he’ll never be back.

The grief-stricken Angels took their first tentative steps toward moving on after the stunning death of their 22-year-old rookie pitcher, beating the Boston Red Sox 6-3 Friday night.

“We’re happy to get a win,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “It doesn’t do much for what happened the last couple of days, but we’re playing baseball. When the game’s over and you start to think about it, it doesn’t ease the pain.”

The Angels paid tribute with a moment of silence for Adenhart and two of his friends who were killed about 36 hours earlier in a car crash after being broadsided in a Fullerton intersection by a suspected drunk driver.

The game began hours after Andrew Thomas Gallo, a 22-year-old from San Gabriel, was charged with three counts of murder by the Orange County district attorney. He ran a red light in his minivan and hit the car carrying Adenhart and his friends, police said. A fourth passenger riding with Adenhart remained hospitalized in critical condition, but was expected to live.

Gallo had nearly triple the legal blood-alcohol level and could get nearly 55 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges, police said.

Flags flew at half-staff at Angel Stadium and around the major leagues to honor a rookie who had accomplished little but showed the promise and potential for a long career.

The Angels, their fans and Adenhart’s parents held tightly to their memories that provided cold comfort to a group still in shock from the sudden deaths of the pitcher and his friends Courtney Stewart and Henry Pearson.

“It’s still very somber,” catcher Jeff Mathis said. “We’re feeling it.”

Adenhart’s parents, Jim and Janet, met privately before the game with Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher, who was instrumental in Adenhart’s development during spring training.

The divorced couple each took a keepsake jersey from their son’s locker and the pitcher’s mother took the red hat he wore while tossing six scoreless innings Wednesday against Oakland in the best performance of Adenhart’s brief major league career.

The rest of the locker’s contents were left in place, including Adenhart’s iPod, and they will remain there for the rest of the season. On the road, a locker will be set aside for him in remembrance.

Angels players wore a No. 34 patch over their hearts, where it will stay all season.

“I just keep hoping he walks through that door,” said pitcher Kevin Jepsen, whose locker adjoins Adenhart’s. “The moment of silence just brings tears to your eyes. You get that feeling inside. You don’t know what to do. You feel helpless.”

In a pregame ceremony, Torii Hunter and John Lackey stood on the mound, each holding Adenhart’s white jersey, their caps off and heads bowed.

The rest of the Angels lined the third-base side, while the Boston Red Sox stood along the first-base line. A brief hush fell over the red-clad crowd of 41,385.

Then Lackey and Hunter hugged before Lackey carried Adenhart’s jersey back to the dugout, where it hung during the game.

Hunter jogged slowly toward center field, headed to the black-and-white picture of Adenhart on the wall. He touched the photo next to No. 34 and Adenhart’s name in a black circle, then took his usual position in center.

“I just wanted to go out there and pump him on the chest,” Hunter said. “I was teary-eyed. It’s tough, man. He was a great kid, loved him and he’s going to be missed. He’s never going to be forgotten in this organization.”

Behind the mound, Angels starter Jered Weaver used his finger to etch Adenhart’s initials in the dirt. Adenhart’s number was painted in red on the back slope of the mound.

“It was one of the toughest I’ve had to get through,” said Weaver, who grew close to Adenhart during spring training and had planned to room with him starting Easter Sunday.

Weaver tipped his cap as he left the game in the seventh inning to a standing ovation. Nearing the dugout, he pointed his right index finger to the sky.

“You know he’s looking down on you,” he said. “He’s going to help us battle through the season.”

An hour after the game, some fans lingered around the growing collection of flowers, balloons, Rally Monkeys, baseballs and handwritten messages piled in tribute to Adenhart on the replica pitcher’s mound outside the stadium. Candles flickered in the cool night air.

“I’m proud to know him,” fellow pitcher Dustin Moseley said. “I’m sure God’s proud to know him right now, too.”

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