Mike Trout on death of Tyler Skaggs: ‘I lost a teammate, a friend, a brother ’
They crammed into the interview room Tuesday afternoon at Globe Life Park in an effort to support each other while club officials and their manager tried to sort things out for the media.
Some hid behind hoodies. Some bowed their heads. Some just let their tears flow.
But for the Los Angeles Angels players and coaches, being together is what feels best right now and into the foreseeable future. Playing baseball together Tuesday night, they believed, would be better than the alternative.
These grieving Angels didn’t play Monday after learning that teammate Tyler Skaggs passed away in a Southlake hotel room. They decided another day off the field wasn’t an viable option, so play they would against the Texas Rangers.
“I don’t know that sitting in a hotel room would do them any good,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said, his eyes moist and his voice cracking.
At that moment, the Angels didn’t look like a team that wanted to play, but they left the news conference to go about their business. Pitchers threw in the outfield before the scheduled first pitch and some position players took optional batting practice.
But before the game started, another reminder — a moment of silence to honor Skaggs, 27, who pitched Saturday and was scheduled to pitch again Thursday in the series finale.
“I just feel terrible for those guys over there,” Rangers catcher Jeff Mathis said.
Feeling their pain
If anyone knows what the Angels are feeling, it’s Mathis. He and Mike Napoli were the Angels’ catchers in 2009 when pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver only hours after his season debut.
Mathis was one of the Miami Marlins’ catchers in 2016 when All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a late-season boating accident. Mathis remembers the fog he played under following those tragedies and the desire to be with his teammates.
“It’s tough to describe,” Mathis said. “I just remember wanting to be around them as much as possible. We were able to kind of get past it. It’s just a really, really tough time.
“It’s weird going about a regular day, a regular game knowing that one of your guys is missing. I just can’t imagine ... or I can, but I just feel so bad for them over there and what they’re going through.”
Angels players did not speak to the media before the game, and the clubhouse was closed to the media afterward. Ausmus and general manager Billy Eppler did most of the talking in the news conference, which also included team president John Carpino and owner Arte Moreno.
Ausmus said that the Angels met twice Monday night to check in on each other and to share stories about Skaggs, who is being described as the best of the best as a person and teammate.
“His reach and his impact, I think everybody is going to discover over the coming weeks, the coming months, because the outpouring that we have felt, that we’ve experienced, has been pretty remarkable,” Eppler said.
“He impacted a lot of people and the community. He was a staple in our community with all of the efforts of the Angels throughout southern California. So many people that knew Tyler and loved Tyler. I’ve yet to run into somebody that didn’t.”
Reacting to the news
The Rangers were told of Skaggs’ passing Monday in a surprise team meeting, and Mathis sensed before it started that something was amiss. It was confirmed when manager Chris Woodward delivered the bad news.
“Having gone through it a couple times, I’m not saying you’re always expecting the worst but you can’t help but have it cross your mind a bit,” he said. “I’ve just been sick to my stomach since Woody came in here and told us.”
Right-hander Jesse Chavez played for the Angels in 2017, when Skaggs made only 16 starts. Before the game, Chavez jogged around the infield to meet with former teammates Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, exchanging hugs with both outfielders.
“Like losing a little brother,” Chavez said. “I still can’t believe it.”
All-Star outfielder Joey Gallo said that he had to sit down upon hearing the news. He wasn’t the only Rangers player stunned by Skaggs’ death.
They all were.
“Even our clubhouse was pretty shook up,” Gallo said. “I can’t even imagine what their clubhouse was like.”
Moreno said that Eppler told him Monday afternoon, and it brought back memories of the phone call he received about Adenhart’s death from former PR man Tim Mead.
“Billy called me and man, it’s like a punch in the heart,” Moreno said. “You’re so in shock when you’re told because he’s been with us 10 years. He was drafted by us in ’09, and these kids are like family. For any parent that have children, the first thing you think is how is somebody going to respond to losing a child?
“Billy called and Tim Mead called me on Adenhart probably about 5 in the morning, same feeling. You can’t believe this. You keep thinking somebody’s there and they’re not there.”
An autopsy was to be performed Tuesday by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner, but the results likely won’t be known until October. The Southlake Police Department does not believe Skaggs committed suicide or that foul play was involved.
The game is played
The Rangers ran onto the field without the usual choice of music by the starting pitcher or any fanfare, and the game finally started at 7:07 p.m. when All-Star left-hander Mike Minor threw the first pitch.
Rangers players decided to go without any walk-up music as their way of honor Skaggs with a moment of silence.
The Angels wore black patches on their chests with Skaggs’ No. 45 jersey number in white. The grounds crew marked the back of the pitcher’s mound with 45 in red paint.
Skaggs’ jersey was hanging in the Angels’ dugout.
David Fletcher dumped a blooper into center field for a leadoff double. Trout took a walk. The Angels scored once.
Minor wasn’t great. He needed 110 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season, and the Angels scored three times against him. The final two came as former Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy singled off Brett Martin with two outs in the fifth.
The Angels kept on scoring in the sixth, plating four runs against Pete Fairbanks and Jose Leclerc.
They won 9-4 in a game they believed would help them escape, even if only temporarily, the loss of their teammate.
When it was all over, the team piled into the interview room once again. They cried some more.
“I can’t explain it, man. I lost a teammate, I lost a friend, a brother,” Trout said. “We’re getting through it. Tough playing out there today, but Skaggs wouldn’t have wanted us to take another day off. It’s going to be tough these next couple of days, the rest of the season, the rest of our life. We were close. All these guys in here I see these guys more than my family.
“To lose somebody like him, it’s tough. My first at-bat, I get up there, all I do is think about him. Just a different feeling, in shock. Playing through the game kind of got our minds off of it but it’s bigger than the game. The friendship and the love I had for his family is more than that.”