Sometimes you just have to shake your head in wonder and amazement. Not at the incredible highlights that sports can provide sometimes, but at the way human beings can behave sometimes. Not because of a throw, or catch, or hit, but from situations that life deals them, even the tragic and unfair loss of a 27 year-old kid that was a good person, and did nothing wrong.
Friday was the Los Angeles Angels first home game since the sudden death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs on July 1. The Angels were playing the Seattle Mariners, and there were the expected, and moving pregame ceremonies. Mom threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and, from the rubber, delivered a strike to home plate. All of the Angels players, much like all of baseball does once a year to honor Jackie Robinson, wore Tyler's number 45. That, in itself, would have been enough.
After the Mariners went down in order, the Angels scored seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. Mike Trout hit a home run. Team owner Arte Moreno was visibly moved by the turn of events when cameras showed him in the owner's box. Frequent shots of Skaggs' mom and family were emotional. The Angels would score two more runs in the second inning, and with a 9-0 lead, starting pitcher Taylor Cole came out of the game. For the 43,140 fans in Anaheim on a perfect 79 degree night, the celebration of the game, and of Skaggs, could begin. The game just an afterthought now. For the television viewers, nothing really more to see here. Or so we thought.
If you turned away (I did), you really couldn't be blamed. If you weren't paying close attention (I wasn't), you missed out. Cole didn't allow a hit in his first two innings of work, and neither did reliever Felix Pena for the next seven. The night to remember a fallen Angels pitcher turned into a combined no-hitter, with the Angels winning 13-0. If you had your phone nearby (I didn't), you may have gotten a no-hitter alert. What happened next was amazing, and I did tune back in just in time to see it.
I don't know if this was planned, or an impromptu moment (I like to think the latter), but the Angels players, one at a time, all took off their Tyler Skaggs number 45 jerseys, and gently placed them on the mound. The moving tribute lasted several minutes, and the TV guys didn't need to say much of anything. They just let the pictures do the talking.
Whatever your beliefs about an afterlife, all you could do while watching, was to just sit there and smile. My thought was, “they must have really liked this kid.”
Skaggs was from Woodland Hills. He was drafted by the Angels, but while in the minors, he was traded to Arizona. He made his major league debut with the Diamondbacks in 2012, but was traded back to the Angels in 2014. He missed the 2015 season because of injury, and, after struggling a little bit the last few years, was 7-7 in 15 starts this season. He was found dead in his hotel room while the team was in Texas. The cause of death still not announced.
The no-hitter and Skaggs celebration night was on the eve of his 28th birthday. The no-hitter was the first combined no-hitter thrown in the state of California since July 13, 1991 (the day he was born). The Angels scored 7 runs in the first inning and ended up with 13. 7-13, his birthday. Divine intervention, the baseball gods at work, or just an eerie coincidence, Friday night in Anaheim will be remembered for a long time. It's possible the no-hitter might be forgotten, but when reminded, you'll immediately think of Skaggs, and remember too, that the sport is played by people, human beings, that sometimes leave this world much earlier than they should.
Let the (older) kids play!: ESPN commentators were praising the new rule that had Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic play a tiebreak when the score got to be 12-12 in the fifth and deciding set. Wimbledon put in the new rule this year after a marathon match during last year's tournament threw off the schedule and delayed other matches. This was the finals, though, and it would have been nice if play was allowed to continue. John McEnroe made the point, though, that because there was an end in sight (the tiebreak), both players had energy to keep playing well as the fifth set went longer and longer. I would have liked to have seen 18-16 or 22-20 myself.
Getting apolitical: I wasn't home on the Fourth of July, but I actually recorded President Trump's 'Salute to America' speech and parade on CNN. I'm not a fan of our President at all, but the event was not nearly as bad as was originally made out to be. You can argue that it rallied his base, and was designed for political gain (and it probably was), but all he did was honor each branch of the service, followed by a military flyover of aircraft representing that branch. CNN's coverage was terrible. From a technical standpoint, they had a hard time getting a camera on an individual that Trump singled out to honor, and they also took a commercial break and missed the Navy presentation. They even came back from break and discussed how shameful the event was, and then got the planes wrong when it was time for the flyover. Trump loves bashing the media, but this time the 'middle of the road network' didn't do a very good job, and didn't give the event the respect it deserved.
Yipes: Would you believe that more people watched last year's Pro Bowl than this year's All-Star game? The mid-summer classic got a 5.0 rating on Fox (8.14 million viewers), the lowest ever, and set a record low in three of the last four years. The Home Run Derby did well, though. Next year, the All-Star game, Home Run Derby, and other related events will be held at Dodger Stadium.
(Don't) Touch that dial?: Thank goodness for the MLB 'Extra Innings' free preview this weekend, otherwise two of the three games between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn't be shown in northern California. You would think MLB Network would be all over the Friday game of the World Series rematch, but no, for some reason they showed Phillies-Nationals instead. Dodgers-Red Sox was the Fox game on Saturday, but we got regional coverage of the Giants at Milwaukee. ESPN had the 12-inning Dodger win Sunday night.
Future (broadcasting) stars: Because of the free MLB preview, I was watching a little of a Miami Marlins telecast this weekend, where former Dodger Todd Hollandsworth is one of their announcers. It got me to thinking. How many Dodger Rookies of the Year are now in the broadcasting biz? I quickly came up with four—Hollandsworth (Marlins TV), Eric Karros (Fox), Rick Sutcliffe (ESPN), and Fernando Valenzuela (Dodgers Spanish language radio). Nomar Garciaparra, who played for the Dodgers and now is a TV analyst, was Rookie of the Year in the American League with Boston in 1997.
Private services were held for Cameron Boyce Sunday. I didn't get to attend, but especially with what happened in Anaheim Friday and remembering Tyler Skaggs, I couldn't help but think about my distant cousin. Cameron was much younger than Skaggs, just turning 20 in May. He'll be remembered as a promising and talented actor and personality, but like Skaggs, those who knew him knew what a great loving person he was. The tributes are great, but the reality is cruel and unfair. Even from another branch of the family tree (my great grandparents were his great great grandparents), a loss like this hurts. To the Boyce family, I love you and my heart aches for you, but I'm proud of you, too. Whether its from social media, friends, or family, the outpouring of love for Cameron is a direct reflection on the person you allowed him to become.