A few days ago, a friend of mine committed suicide. According to the Carrollton, Texas police department, the lonesome middle-aged man passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, leaving little but a memory of a solitary, quirky personality and the wisdom he tried to pass on to me and many others. Whether he knew it or not, he touched many lives and left an indelible mark on those around him through his pure and delightful peculiarity.
About 60 hours later, news broke of the passing of Los Angeles Angels left-hander Tyler Skaggs. The Southlake, Texas police department found the 27-year-old unresponsive at the Hilton hotel in Southlake, about 20 minutes north of Globe Life Park in Arlington, where the Angels were set to kick off a series against the Texas Rangers on Monday afternoon. Skaggs was pronounced dead at the scene, and an autopsy to find out the cause of death — as foul play, as well as suicide, were ruled out — is scheduled for Tuesday.
In the aftermath of his sudden, tragic death, the game was postponed. It was the proper move and the same one ordered by the Miami Marlins during the afternoon of Jose Fernandez‘s death, but like the cancelled Marlins game nearly three years prior, the status of the contest was secondary to the response to the surprising passing of the pitcher.
Clubhouses around Major League Baseball were sickened. The same sport that mourned the deaths of Luis Valbuena, Yordano Ventura, Oscar Taveras, and Nick Adenhart had another spirit to sorrow over for years to come. Teams all around the majors issued their condolences on social media, and in what seemed like no time, baseball fans in Anaheim flocked to an empty Angel Stadium to pay their respects near a makeshift memorial outside of the park’s home plate entrance.
Not many times did I see my friend in person. He had a certain inherent isolation about him that members of the federal Witness Protection Program would envy. The best time to reach him was in the darkest hours of the night, when he could cleanly field a text or direct message on Twitter with no hesitation to assist the sender, replying with loads of wisdom and insight. Whether it was an existential crisis, or a silly question about the 1998-99 Dallas Stars, I learned quickly that his enigmatic self was never short on answers.
I saw him as the abstruse uncle we all have. He was a level of cryptically obscure that was unequaled from anyone I know now. And he helped me with a lot of personal problems that saw no other aid, all while — quietly, discreetly — suffering from life-altering mental illnesses of his own, ailments which I fear will never come to light.
He never made anything about himself, and it’s what made him such a caring guy. For everybody but himself, he was always there.
Rangers manager Chris Woodward described the sad news of Skaggs’ death as “one of those moments where you’re just kind of numb” and said his club was thinking about the Skaggs family and the entire Angels organization.
“There were a lot of pretty emotional guys in there,” Woodward said. “Some guys that didn’t even know him were visibly shaken.”
Countless big-league stars took to social media to offer support to the Skaggs family and pay their respects to a close friend. “My message to the [A]ngels while having no time for yourself to grieve is to hug each other, laugh, cry, lift the ones taking it extra hard up. You’re going to wonder why all of this is happening, is it real, why are [yo]u suiting up to play a game that seems irrelevant,” said Giancarlo Stanton on his Instagram feed.
Teammate Mike Trout describes him as “a great teammate, friend, and person who will forever remain in our hearts.”
When I heard of my friend’s passing on Tuesday morning, I was stunned. I never knew about all the things that drove him to end it all, I don’t think anyone did. He never reached out, a complication of his own perceived nullity. It isn’t anyone’s fault.
He will be missed greatly, but more importantly, he will be remembered as the kind soul and gentleman he was. I’ll keep the conversations we had forever in my mind and perennially preach the same benevolence he instilled on me and his loved ones.
Skaggs, as well, will always be remembered. The young, entertaining big-league pitcher will leave a legacy that runs from his teammates, to his coaches, to his fans, and beyond. Tributes to the late lefty are scheduled all around the majors, and fellow pitchers are sure to dedicate themselves, and their performances, to Skaggs and his family.
The hundreds of fans who showed up at 2000 E Gene Autry Way, Anaheim, California out of the blue to pay their respects, many dropping everything they had going on to lay hats, baseballs, and framed photos on the brick pitcher’s mound that compliments the gates of the ballpark, show that the beloved southpaw will never die in the hearts of the game.
I have long thought that this is what our time on the planet is about: leaving a lasting, impactful, and beautiful memory on our fellow humans. Life is often unnecessarily cruel, but that hardship is what shapes us as people and what allows us to transcend our inevitable deaths, elevating us to an eternal life.
Tyler Skaggs accomplished that and will never truly leave us.