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Adenhart had made a slow climb to reach the majors.
He hurt his pitching elbow two weeks before the June 2004 major league draft, when he was projected as a top-five pick out of Williamsport High in Maryland.
But the setback dropped him to the 14th round, where the Angels selected him. He underwent Tommy John surgery -- a reconstructive operation on an elbow ligament -- later that month and spent most of next four seasons in the minors.
Adenhart struggled with a 9.00 ERA in three starts for the Angels last season, but Scioscia said last month the right-hander had worked hard over the winter and arrived at spring training with a purpose.
He was made the No. 3 starter as the season began this week because of injuries to John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar, all of whom are on the disabled list.
Adenhart's father had flown out from Baltimore to attend the game.
"He told his dad that he'd better come here, that something special was going to happen," said Scott Boras, Adenhart's agent, who wept at the stadium news conference.
After the game, "He was so elated ... he felt like a major leaguer," Boras said.
The agent said he spoke with Adenhart and his father, in the clubhouse lobby until about 11:30 p.m. The pitcher and his father were staying at a nearby hotel.
Adenhart's mother, Janet, was flying to Anaheim. His parents were divorced.
"To, I think, focus on his loss is not what we need to do here today, we need to focus on who Nick was and his achievement," Boras said. "His parents really want to communicate to everyone that it's a very difficult moment, but it's also a very special moment because Nick was most accomplished and his life's goal was to be a major league baseball player and he certainly achieved that standard."
The tragedy adds another chapter to the Angels' string of misfortune over the years.
Just this week, a 27-year-old fan died after being assaulted at Angel Stadium on opening day.
Infielder Chico Ruiz and rookie pitcher Bruce Heinbechner were killed in car accidents in the early 1970s, as was shortstop Mike Miley in 1977. The following year, star outfielder Lyman Bostock was shot and killed late in the season in Gary, Ind.
In 1989, reliever Donnie Moore shot his wife and then killed himself three years after giving up a big home run that kept the Angels from winning the American League pennant.
A small but steady stream of somber fans came to the stadium Thursday to add flowers to a makeshift memorial on the pitcher's mound on the brick "infield" outside the stadium entrance.
A poster among the bouquets read, "No. 34, You are one more Angel in heaven." Scribbled on a baseball was, "Now you play for another Angels team."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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