It was April 8, 2009. The Los Angeles Angels sent 22-year-old Nick Adenhart to the mound that night. In just his fourth career start, Adenhart dazzled with six shutout innings and five strikeouts. It was cause for celebration as the Angels had something blossoming with this kid. To the shock of everyone, that night would be the last time that Adenhart would pitch, the last game that he would play, and the last night that he would be alive. In the early hours of April 9, Adenhart and two others lost their lives in a drunk driving accident.
I can’t say that I grew up watching Adenhart since I was two years older than him, but he was a guy I followed. A young pitcher named Nick really resonated with me. What made that fateful night so surreal was that if you were on the east coast or in the midwest, you went to bed that night possibly putting in a waiver claim to add Adenhart to your fantasy team. When you woke up a few hours later, he was gone. It was a shocking and cruel reminder that even athletes are not invincible.
A similar situation happened just a few months ago with the death of Oscar Taveras. A young prospect lost all too quickly because of one mistake. In Adenhart’s case, though, it wasn’t even his mistake — he was just an innocent passenger on his way home from the ballpark. Although the legal system has doled out its justice, there will always be a void left with this heartbreaking twist of fate. Instead of preparing for future starts, we are left with what could have been. Instead of seeing a young player come into his own playing the game that he loved, we are left with the memory of one tragic night. All of this because of one mistake.
If Major League Baseball wants to try to bring awareness to a young audience, perhaps they should consider making every April 9 “Nick Adenhart Day.” For all games played on that day, maybe alcohol sales could be cut off after the third inning to take a stand against drunk driving. Or even one step further, have no alcohol sales for one day across the league to take a true stand. Vendors and parks will still be able to survive with one less day of sales. This would simply be to raise awareness against drunk driving, against acts that can be easily avoided. With the loss of Adenhart and Taveras at such young ages, this is an unfortunate reminder of everyday tragedies. If awareness can be raised to prevent even one of these instances, it will have done its job.
Raising awareness to try and save lives can be wins credited to Adenhart — the wins that never got the chance to show up on the back of his baseball card. Six years later, and even a few months after the passing of Taveras, there are two things that young people can take away. One is for young players to cherish and respect the game, because you just never know when it may be taken away from you. Second, for everyone young and old, it is a reminder that one mistake could change everything, and that not one person is invincible, including athletes.