Why the Nick Adenhart Tragedy Affected Me

I don't know why but when I heard the news about Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart, I immediately got sick to my stomach. Don't get me wrong; I really do not see myself as some heartless loaf that is unable to feel emotion.

But, being a registered nurse in a trauma center besides being a baseball writer, I see catastrophic events such as this more than I care to think about. And doing what I do, I try to not allow it to affect me to help protect my sanity. When I hear about another young soldier's life lost on a foreign soul, I do not react like this. So not only was I thinking about the loss of the promising pitcher's life, I began to wonder why I this had affected me so.

When I first heard the news, I had just returned from a seven-mile run while my daughter rode her bicycle beside me. This was the first day of her spring break so she and I were going to spend some time together, something Anna and I just do not get enough of. So on this day, while her brother was at an Easter egg hunt, we were going to hang out and spend some quality time together. But after hearing the news, I just couldn't seem to get the thought of Adenhart's family out of mind.

Earlier in the morning, I happened to getting some laughs out of a picture my wife Christina had taken of our son Zachary. The photograph had been shot the previous night during Zac's last soccer game of the season. Now, I am not one to brag about my kids, okay, maybe I am, but he is a scoring machine. He has averaged around 10 goals per game the past two seasons but the team he played this night was giving him all he could handle. After some battling back and forth, he was able to break through and score a goal. Fortunately, Christina was able to catch Zac's reaction after he scored his first goal of the night. His reaction of pure jubilation is both fantastic and rousing. He reminded me how exciting it can be when we allow ourselves to get caught in the moment.

After walking around with the thought of Nick Adenhart all day long, it finally came to me. I was not thinking of the rookie pitcher but my thoughts and concerns were with the Adenhart family especially his father, Jim. My concerns were of how this father was never going to get to witness this type of jubilation from his son again. Never again would he get to see the elation of a job well done nor would he get to just spend time along side him.

Fortunately, he did get to witness this type of joy the night of his son's death. Against the Oakland A's, the younger Adenhart hurled six shutout innings in only his fourth big league start.

According to his agent Scott Boras, "After the game, he was so elated. It was tremendous fun." Unbeknownst at the time, it would be the last time that the father would get to see his son like this.

On a personal level, I am not a stranger to this type of tragedy. During the early morning hours of September 5, 2003, my family received a call that was probably similar to that the Adenhart family received. The middle of the night call that every person dreads and causes a lump in one's throat if you even imagine it. The call that a loved one is hurt or worse, my call was to inform me that my youngest brother, Tyler, had perished in a car wreck. Three weeks short of his 19th birthday, like Nick Adenhart, a drunk driver killed my brother.

I am not going to insult the Adenhart family and tell them I know how they feel because know one knows how they truly feel. But I do know that the more you try to make sense of it, the less sense it makes. Adenhart's family has many tears to shed but hopefully they will remember to celebrate the incredible life of Nick Adenhart.

Believing I had figured out my emotions on this subject, I quickly realized that I still had not completely figured out my feelings. It then came to me why Adenhart's death affected me so much but the other deaths one hears about every day on the nightly news rarely draw my attention. No life is more important than another. Just because Nick Adenhart is a professional ballplayer, it does not mean he is more valuable than the thousands of lives lost in Iraq.

But that's it.

Adenhart is a ballplayer. Sports are my way to escape the realities of a cruel, harsh world. It is my way to forget about my day. When watching Albert Pujols at bat or Johan Santana on the mound, my trials and tribulations are miles away.

That is why grown men cry when a favorite sports hero passes. Though he might have never met that hero, that man has built a relationship in his mind making it all the more difficult when the real world hits his fantasy world.

Dustin can be contacted at dustin@whiteyball.com


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