When the word tragedy is mentioned in the world of professional sports, we immediately think of misfortune between the white lines.
We view a tragedy as the Cubs’ collapse in the 2003 NLCS, or Mookie Wilson’s dribbler squirting between the legs of Bill Buckner. Even the Orioles’ demise over the past 11 years could certainly fit the description of a sports “tragedy.”
However, the news of Angels pitcher, and Silver Spring native, Nick Adenhart’s tragic death immediately alters that shallow perspective. For as much as we love baseball, at the end of the day, it is truly just a game.
Professional athletes are usually static characters, judged solely by their performances. As fans, we judge these men more as machines than as human beings.
Sure, we scrutinize the missteps, the run-ins with the law, and rightfully so, but very rarely do we truly get to know these athletes as human beings. Even the good deeds of athletes such as Brian Roberts are usually nothing more than an afterthought—a diversion from their performance on the field.
Adenhart was a promising pitcher emerging from the Angels organization. Baltimore fans may be familiar with him due to his Maryland roots or the mention of his name in the Miguel Tejada trade rumors a couple seasons ago.
But, far more importantly, Adenhart was a son, a friend, and a human being. Despite making six figures, we learned how excited he was simply to have his father watch him pitch on Wednesday night.
It’s difficult not to think of our experiences when our own fathers or mothers watched us play in little league or in the peewee football game when we were younger.
Yes, the money desensitizes nearly everyone involved in professional sports—players, management, and fans—but when you break it down and ignore the business side, it’s the same game we played as children.
If Adenhart’s sudden death can teach us anything as sports fans, perhaps it’s to simply enjoy the game a bit more than we already do and not take anything for granted—not our family, our friends, or the athletes we enjoy watching on a daily basis.
Whether it’s the 22-year-old pitcher throwing six scoreless innings, or the guy sitting behind us in Section 322 at Camden Yards, life is so fragile.
In the end, we’d all love to see the Orioles improve after the last 11 seasons, and we’ll continue to voice our displeasure as fans, but let’s remember why we all tune in on TV or go to the ballpark—a shared love for the game of baseball and watching these players, these fellow human beings who are as mortal as anyone else, perform.
And that’s all that really matters in the bottom of the ninth.