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Nick Adenhart's death: Too soon, a star falls

April 09, 2009

o Share your condolences and memories of Nick Adenhart on a page celebrating his life and accomplishments.

o Los Angeles Angels' announcement of Adenhart's death

When Williamsport High School pitcher Nick Adenhart learned that the pop in his pitching elbow meant that he would have to undergo surgery and possibly be knocked out of Major League Baseball's draft, he did not moan and groan about his fate.

Instead, the young man who had been followed by hordes of scouts said that it was a chance for baseball to become something fun again.

Not that he was giving up on his dream of making it to the big leagues. Adenhart had the surgery, worked himself back into shape and on Thursday pitched six shutout innings for the Los Angeles Angels.

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But after the cheering stopped that night and Adenhart left the ballpark, police said the vehicle he rode in was struck by a driver who ran a red light, then left the scene of the accident.

In a short time, a gentle, talented young man was dead, long before the career he'd worked so hard to achieve could give him a shot to reach baseball's Hall of Fame.

Adenhart's local sporting career is a list of milestones and not all in baseball, either. He was also a star for the Williamsport basketball team.

On Jan. 25, 2003, The Herald-Mail reported on Adenhart's performance in a 54-52 win over Boonsboro.

He scored 24 points for his team, including his team's last nine points, the game-winning basket and nine rebounds, too.

In the spring of 2003, he was named Gatorade's Maryland Baseball Player of the Year. He had already been named the No. 1 junior in the nation by Baseball America.

More honors followed that summer, when he was named to the 2003 AFLAC All-American team.

In November 2003, he signed with the University of North Carolina, though he had an eye on baseball's upcoming draft and said he was keeping his options open.

But despite another award from Gatorade, his torn elbow ligament made it unlikely he would go -- as once projected -- as a top-five pick.

When he talked about the injury in May 2004, he did not speak about what he had lost, but what he had gained -- friendships and maturity.

"I kept telling the people around me that no matter what happened, I was going to be the same person that I was," he said. "Even with all this, I proved to myself that I'm the same guy. I haven't changed," he said.

And as he told his stepfather, Duane Gigeous, the injury was nobody's fault.

"I was walking in the forest and got hit by lightning," Adenhart said.

But the Los Angeles Angels bet that he would recover from the surgery and regain the form that had made him a hot prospect.

He did that and more, going through a minor league apprenticeship that led him to a place on the Angels' roster.

It wasn't all stars and moonbeams. There were setbacks and losses, but the young man treated them not as disappointments, but as lessons to be learned.

Those who watched him and rooted for him knew that he would absorb those experiences and turn them into something wonderful.

It seemed that nothing could stop him. Nothing, that is, except for a traffic incident in which two others died and a fourth (at this writing) is in critical condition.

Those who knew and rooted for this young man must be lamenting a tragedy made that much sadder because Adenhart was a young man who did not allow his ego and his talents to overshadow the best part of his personality.

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