Nick Adenhart, 22, Angels starting pitcher. Drafted in 2004, he made his big-league debut in May 2008 and was the youngest active-roster pitcher in the majors at the time. Pitched six innings in Wednesday night’s loss to Oakland, giving up 7 hits, 0 runs and 3 bases on balls and recording 5 strikeouts.
Courtney Stewart, 20, a sophomore majoring in communications with a minor in journalism at Cal State Fullerton. She was a cheerleader in 2007-08 and was active in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority chapter in Fullerton.
Henry Pearson, 25, a law student from Manhattan Beach who wanted to be a sports agent. He graduated from Arizona State University in 2006 and was friends with Stewart.
INJURED: Jon Wilhite, 24, former catcher and first baseman for Cal State Fullerton, where he majored in business. He said in a school biography that his greatest sports thrill was winning the Junior Olympics.
Fans gathered Thursday evening around a makeshift memorial outside Angel Stadium of Anaheim to mourn rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart, who was killed early Thursday by a suspected drunk driver – just hours after he pitched six shutout innings.
Signed banners, bouquets of flowers and balloons were laid at the entrance of the stadium, where fans stood and held each other in silence. Thursday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics was postponed out of respect for Adenhart’s family.
Angels rookie Adenhart, 22, was a hard-throwing pitcher who fought back from arm surgery to make it in the Big Leagues. Two people who were with him were also killed when, according to police, aminivan ran a red light at a Fullerton intersection and broadsided the gray Mitsubishi they were in. The driver of the minivan, Andrew Thomas Gallo, 22, of Riverside, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, hit and run and manslaughter.
“It’s just so sad,” said Michael Richardson, 51, of Long Beach, who struggled to hold back tears. “Last night. he was stellar.”
Richardson was dressed from head to toe in Angel red, along with his friend Tanya Olsen. Both had tickets to Thursday’s game.
“We’ll be here for the Red Sox game tomorrow,” Olsen said. “I just hope they turn on the stadium halo for Nick tonight.”
And they did.
“He’s a young man trying to make a good life. You just don’t find them like that anymore,” said Pete Quintana, 57 of Anaheim, a lifelong Angels fan who added a candle to the makeshift memorial. “It really hurts inside.”
Adenhart was riding as a passenger in the Mitsubishi; police said he and some friends had planned to go dancing at a club called In Cahoots.
The Mitsubishi’s driver, 20-year-old Courtney Stewart, a former cheerleader at Cal State Fullerton, died at the scene. So did another passenger, Henry Pearson, 25, a law student from Manhattan Beach who wanted to be a sports agent; he was sitting behind Stewart.
A fourth person in the car, Jon Wilhite, 24, survived the crash but was taken to UCI Medical Center with critical injuries. Wilhite played catcher and first base for Cal State Fullerton’s baseball team for the past five seasons.Police said they were still trying to determine the relationships among the four people in the car. Stewart’s mother told police her daughter was a friend of Adenhart’s but she did not think they were dating.
The Mitsubishi was driving south on Lemon Street. The minivan driven by Gallo was heading east on Orangethorpe. Accident investigators believe it was going about 50 or 60 miles per hour, Fullerton Police Lt. Kevin Hamilton said; the posted speed limit in that area, he said, is 45 or 50.
Witnesses told police the minivan ran a red light and crashed into the Mitsubishi as it entered the intersection, slamming it into a light pole. The driver of the minivan, later identified as Gallo, fled the crash scene and was arrested by Anaheim police.
Gallo was treated for minor injuries at UC Irvine’s Medical Center and was arrested on suspicion of felony drunken driving, felony hit and run and vehicular manslaughter. A passenger in his van, Raymond Alexander Rivera, 21, of Corona, was also hospitalized with minor injuries.
Investigators were interviewing Gallo on Thursday afternoon. Hamilton said they may also pursue homicide charges against him.
Hospital tests indicated that Gallo had a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of .08, Hamilton said, although he declined to give specific details.
Gallo was driving on a suspended license after a previous drunken-driving conviction, Hamilton said. Court records from Orange and Riverside counties show that a man named Andrew Gallo was convicted of driving without a valid license, burglary and possession of a controlled substance, among other charges, in 2004 and 2005.
Adenhart was taken to UCI Medical Center and died Thursday morning in surgery. His father, Jim, had flown in from Baltimore to watch his son pitch against the Oakland A’s in Wednesday night’s game and was at the hospital when he died.
Adenhart “lived his dream,” his parents, Jim and Janet, said in a prepared statement. “The Angels were his extended family. Thanks to all of Nick’s loyal supporters and fans throughout his career. He will always be in everyone’s hearts forever.”
Adenhart was considered one of the nation’s top high-school prospects heading into his senior season at Williamsport High in Maryland in 2004. Then he felt a pop in his right arm as he delivered a pitch – a ligament injury that required surgery.
The Angels picked him in the 14th round of the 2004 draft – a selection that was seen as a gamble, given his injury. He made his Major League debut last May, but was sent back to the minors after three starts.
Wednesday’s game was his season debut, and his second shot at the big leagues. He called his father the day before and told him to come out, saying that “something special is going to happen,” his agent, Scott Boras, said Thursday.
Adenhart pitched six scoreless innings against Oakland on Wednesday night, with five strikeouts in what turned into a 6-4 loss. Head coach Mike Scioscia, a former big-league catcher, said he told Adenhart after the game: “Great job. I’m proud of (you).”
“His life’s goal was to be a Major League baseball player,” said Boras, who had to wipe away tears with a tissue. “He certainly achieved that standard.”
The Angels will pay tribute to Adenhart before Friday’s home game against the Boston Red Sox, although the club was still working out the details. Angels players will also wear some kind of emblem or patch on their uniforms this season in honor of Adenhart.