The Los Angeles Angels took the field Tuesday night for the first time since the unexpected death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
Skaggs was found dead in a Southlake hotel room on Monday afternoon, just hours before the scheduled first pitch of a four-game series between the Angels and the Texas Rangers. His cause of death is unknown, but Southlake police said no foul play is involved.
Monday night’s game was canceled, with the Angels departing Globe Life Park after learning of Skaggs’ death. A somber group of Angels representatives met with reporters on Tuesday afternoon at Globe Life Park, saying there was a general feeling that Skaggs would’ve wanted the rest of the series to go on.
An emotional Angels manager Brad Ausmus said playing Tuesday would “be a refuge for players” as they grieve. Most of the team quietly watched the press conference off to the side of the podium. Ausmus said the first game back was going to be tough regardless, and he wasn't sure sitting in a hotel room an extra day would do the players any good.
"A lot of problems go away when the first pitch is thrown until the last pitch is thrown," general manager Billy Eppler said, adding that Skaggs would still be weighing heavy on the hearts of the players.
Ausmus wiped tears from his eyes when he talked about the time Angels players spent together Monday, when they talked about Skaggs, including some of the goofy things he did and listening to his music.
Angels owner Arte Moreno described his loss as a punch in the heart.
“It’s just um… You really don’t… You’re so in shock,”” he said.
There was a special tribute to Skaggs at the center of Globe Life Park. His number, 45, was behind the pitcher’s mound where he would have been pitching from. There was a somber moment of silence before the first pitch in Arlington Tuesday night.
“Grief is personal to all of us. It doesn’t have a timeline. It doesn’t have a road map,” Eppler said. “But what is important is that we’ll all be here for each other as a team, as an organization and as a family.”
Skaggs had been with the Angels for 10 years after being drafted in 2009. He had just gotten married in December. He struggled with injuries repeatedly in that time but was 7-7 with a 4.29 ERA in 15 starts this season to help an injury-plagued rotation. He was beloved by the team, described as magnetic and consistent in character.
“We’re from California and we just thought we’d pay tribute to Tyler Skaggs and number 45,” said Angels fan Michael Shelley. “Always in our heart and always an angel.”
“It’s going to be a tough game for everyone on both sides, but we’re happy to be here and give everyone our support,” said Rangers fan Jamie Field.
Ausmus said Skaggs was excited to play in Texas. In his cowboy-themed Instagram post on Sunday, Skaggs captioned the team photo with "Howdy y'all." The left-hander's next start for the Angels was supposed to be on the Fourth of July holiday.
“He came up to me four or five days before and said, ‘We’re going to Texas for two series. You care if we all dress up in western gear or cowboy gear?’” Ausmus recalled. “So he kind of spearheaded that and that’s one of the last pictures we have of Skaggsy.”
“You could see the smile and just how happy he was,” said Angels fan Nicole Martin. “And then to turn around and just not be here the next day is heartbreaking.”
Proceeds from certain promotions at Tuesdays’ game were donated to the Los Angeles Angels Foundation, which will then make donations to several LA organizations in Skaggs’ memory.
The Tarrant County medical examiner said that the results of Skaggs could take up to 90 days.
The Rangers said Monday's game wouldn't be made up this week. The Angels return to Texas for another series in mid-August. Fans are asked to hold on to their tickets from Monday’s game so they can be used when a date is set for a make-up game.