Life Is Fragile, Even for Professional Athletes

Brandon Hensley

On the night of April 8, Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart threw six scoreless innings against the Oakland A’s at Angel Stadium. It was the best start of young Adenhart’s career, one that looked so promising to many people in Major League Baseball.

But tragedy struck just hours later, when Adenhart and two of his friends were killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. Adenhart was just 22.

Adenhart’s death no doubt brings to mind some other recent taken-too-soon tragedies in baseball.

In 2002, 33-year-old St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile was found dead in his Chicago hotel room on the day of a game against the Cubs. His cause of death was described as “coronary athersoclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart muscle.”

Kile left behind his wife and three children.
In 2006, New York Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle died when the single-engine plane he was flying hit a building in Manhattan. He was only 34.

Each of these deaths provides a reminder to how short life can be. It’s a shame that these men died the way they did, and that others die just like them everyday, be it by accident or the unexplainable.

It’s also a shame that the living need these reminders to appreciate their lives. In my previous column, I mentioned James Jenkins, former basketball star at my school, Crescenta Valley High. Jenkins graduated in 2001, and went to play for San Jose State.
In May of 2002, while hiking with his father, he fell off a cliff and died.
The day the news got back to our school, our coach cancelled practice and took every member of the basketball program into the locker room. With tears in his eyes, he told us to go home and tell our family members that we love them, to tell anyone how you feel, because you never know, you just never know.

Andrew Gallo, the 22-year-old kid who killed Adenhart, is not someone who appreciated his life or anyone else’s. Not on that night. Besides being drunk, he was driving with a suspended license.

Ultimately, it will be up to Adenhart’s family to forgive Gallo and his foolish actions. Whatever they decide is their choice. If mercy and grace is given to Gallo, it will serve as a reminder as well that we have the power of compassion, the power to forgive.

Easter has passed and a new baseball season begins, reminding me of how much spring symbolizes hope, and redemption. A new beginning for anyone that wants it, really.

Maybe this Easter, a father walked out of church with a renewed sense to do good in his life. To be the father his daughter finally deserves, even if it’s too late to reconcile with his ex-family members.

Maybe that same daughter also came away feeling inspired. Inspired to make good in a new surrounding, to unleash her potential and strip away the recklessness and poor decisions that have held her down, and that she can realize her life is only just beginning, but that the time is now.
Maybe, just maybe.

People always say they learn something by watching the innocence of a child. This may seem odd, but I sometimes learn by watching the innocence of our dog, Dakota.

She’s up there in age, her coat almost as grey as it is golden, and her hearing is just about gone, but Dakota embraces life like few animals I’ve ever seen.

Her bones say she’s an old woman, but her heart is as young as the day my grandparents brought her home (as evidenced by the way she acts like a teenager with Jonas Brothers tickets when she knows she’s going for a ride in the car).

Sure, a dog like her doesn’t have to deal with the everyday problems of a human, but she’s been through her own difficult times. The first few years of her life were spent alone in a backyard, not getting nearly enough exercise nor attention. She lost her master and best friend three years ago (my grandpa), and anyone who has seen or read Where the Red Ferns Grows knows how dogs can react to losing a loved one.

But there she is everyday, tail and tongue wagging, ready and excited for whatever she might do next.

In a way, Dakota is my reminder to smile at times even when I don’t want to. To be happy. To be thankful for the air we breathe, and to be excited for each new day which allows us another chance to laugh, love, forgive. To live. Because something we don’t have much of is time.

The day after Adenhart’s death in San Diego, venerable Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully offered his sympathies and prayers, and gave us this to think about when he said: “And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years – and I haven’t learned much – but the one thing I’ve learned: Don’t even waste your time trying to figure out life.”

He added a moment later, “and life goes on for those that still have it.”

For those of us needing that reminder, lets get to it.