As you know, the Angels punched their postseason ticket Monday night thanks to an 11-0 walloping of the Texas Rangers.
This marks the 3rd consecutive year and 5th time in the last 6 seasons that the Angels have won the American League West division.
It has been the Angels’ division to run away with the past few years, mixed in with moderate competition from Oakland, Texas, and Seattle… but there never had been any doubt that the Angels were the clear-cut team to beat in the AL West.
This year started off the same way, but just 3 days and a handful of hours into the season… everything changed.
The Angels organization was rocked after receiving news of the sudden and unsuspected passing of young pitcher Nick Adenhart, a victim of a deadly drunk driving accident that killed 2 others in the car he was in and internally decapitated another.
The Angels went into a tailspin.
They started the season at 6-11, their worst start to a season in 7 years.
Vladimir Guerrero clearly wasn’t his normal slugging himself.
The Angels were without all-star starters John Lackey and Ervin Santana to begin the season.
Signs were beginning to point to the Angels having a long and disappointing season ahead of them.
Being the heavy favorites to win the AL West at the beginning of the year, the Angels had plenty of expectations heading into the ’09 campaign.
But being dealt an indescribable loss of a fellow teammate 3 games into the season just threw any expectations out the window.
Baseball became irrelevant.
It went from an everyday job to an afterthought.
It opened the eyes of many to what was really important in life… family.
Nick Adenhart was buried in his hometown of Williamsport, Maryland on April 17th, a service that drew a crowd of over 1,500 people, all remembering the fallen 22-year-old.
It was a moment that turned the surreal into the real.
The Angels had lost a teammate, but more importantly, the Adenhart family had lost a son.
From that point forward, the Angels were no longer a team.
They were no longer an organization.
They were a family.
A family that banded together, embodied resiliency, and rose above all obstacles to attain a common goal.
The 2009 Angels personify resilience.
Not only did they have to rise above the tragedy of Nick Adenhart to begin the season, but they also had to fill the voids of Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter being injured and missing a month’s worse of time simultaneously midway through the season (with Juan Rivera missing a week and half’s play during that time as well).
Did the Angels throw in the towel and cave in?
No way, no how.
The Angels would win 17 of 20 games with Vlad and Torii out of the lineup, a streak that spoke volumes of the depth and perseverance of the Angels’ organization as a whole.
It also spoke volumes of their manager, Mike Scioscia; the most level-headed manager in all of baseball who regardless of any scenario or situation, would always keep calm and remain on an even-keel.
The 2002 Angels will forever be remembered as the Comeback Kids.
But the 2009 Angels never quit. They had every reason in the world to quit, and no one could blame them for doing so.
They could have packed it up, threw in the towel, and called the ’09 season a wash.
I couldn’t have blamed them if they did. Not after a blow like that to the organization, no way I could even think of blaming them.
But despite all the adversity, they didn’t give up. Not once.
This is a team of heart.
This is a team of perseverance.
This is a team of champions.
From tragedy to triumph, regardless of how the Angels do this postseason, they’ve won it all in my mind.
Tonight, when I saw the entire team walk out to the image of Nick Adenhart on the center field wall (http://www.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=6901489 for video of that moment)… I realized why I’m an Angel fan.
Because this team is a family… and I feel like I am a part of that family.
And family… is loved.