I want to preface this week’s column with making sure everyone knows I am no expert on this. I cannot imagine going through a situation like this and I am not one who can give advice on how to handle anything like this.
Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim announced 27-year old pitcher Tyler Skaggs was found dead in a hotel during a road trip to Dallas. The Angels were scheduled to play against the Texas Rangers on Monday night but the game was cancelled after the discovery.
There are very limited details on the death but you do not need the details to understand the tragedy that happened to the Angels organization, to the MLB as a whole and to the Skaggs family.
The news shocked the baseball world as writers, players and fans turned to social media to try make sense of what happened and emotions quickly started taking over. Some people struggled to get many words out, sending out messages of “RIP 45” while sending prayers to the Skaggs family.
However, one player managed to gather his thoughts and give advice to the Angels organization because he has experienced that same feeling. New York Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton posted a picture of Skaggs to his Instagram with a long message talking about the emotions the teammates are going to go through in the coming days before calling on them to be a light during the dark period.
“Try to Focus & understand how important your strength is for his family, all of your supporters & anyone looking for the power to overcome,” Stanton’s post read. “They’re looking @ you for guidance. So you all really need each other now. Stay strong fellas I’m thinking about you!”
The message clearly got a warm reception from the baseball family and had an effect on people outside of the Angels organization. Stanton may not know exactly what the Angels players and Skaggs family are feeling but unfortunately, he has his own experiences in this area.
In September 2016, Stanton was a teammate of Jose Fernandez when Fernandez died in a boating accident at the age of 24. Fernandez had a love for the game that could be seen from anyone watching the Miami Marlins during his time there.
I am not a Marlins fan at all but I always gravitated toward Fernandez when he was pitching. For almost three years now, I have kept a scrap piece of paper in my wallet with “JF16” on it to remind me of the passion he had for his job and how showing that passion can resonate with people around you.
That was his legacy. And it is not just for me.
His teammates loved him, the fans loved him, but tragedy struck and the baseball world needed to turn and provide their support to the Marlins family. Now they need to do the same for the Angels.
It seems like you hear it all the time how tragedy brings people closer together and that may never be truer than what happens in the sports world. We see these athletes every day competing against each other but at the end of the day, they are people and they have to deal with tragedy just like we do.
It is not about how many wins you have or how many home runs you hit or what your future on the diamond holds, it is about the community. The death of Skaggs brought these opponents together to mourn with each other, to support each other and to ensure the legacy Skaggs leaves is about more than his performance on the field.