Nick Adenhart.jpgThe death of the young Angels’ pitcher, Nick Adenhart, and two others in the car he was driving, was one of those tragedies that hits you in the gut, even though it happens very day, everywhere–a drunk driver plowing into a car of young people. But of course, this was a public personality, in a way, it was during Holy Week, and Adenhart had so much promise. He had just pitched the fourth–and best–game of his major league career, and after the game, Adenhart told reporters he felt “just a lot more relaxed, self-confident.”

His father had also flown out from Maryland to watch his son win convincingly. He flew home with the body, to a family and, as CNS reports, a parish in grief–St. Augustine in Williamsport, where his father, grandparents and other family members belong:

Jim and Connie Adenhart, the baseball standout’s grandparents, spent more than an hour in prayer at St. Augustine after hearing about the death, according to Father Stephen Hook, pastor at St. Augustine.

“They’re very heartbroken,” he told The Catholic Review, Baltimore’s archdiocesan newspaper.

“I embraced them both and let them express what was going on,” said Father Hook. “They brought pictures to the church of their grandson as a 4-year-old, when he was in high school and of him with the Angels. They were so proud of him.”

Adenhart played basketball at St. Maria Goretti before transferring to Williamsport High School in his junior year. While pitching for Williamsport High, he suffered a serious injury to his pitching elbow right before the June 2004 major league draft — causing him to sink to the 14th round when he was drafted by the Angels.

“All the teams walked away from him except for the Angels,” Father Hook said. “His grandparents felt very highly of the Angels for being generous to him.”

Adenhart needed ligament transplant surgery and the Angels gave him a $710,000 signing bonus and offered him the opportunity to rehabilitate under the team’s care. He rose up through the ranks in the team’s minor league system.

The Adenhart family released a written statement thanking the Angels for their help.

“He lived his dream and was blessed to be part of an organization comprised of such warm, caring and compassionate people,” the statement said. “The Angels were his extended family. Thanks to all of Nick’s loyal supporters and fans throughout his career. He will always be in everyone’s hearts forever.”

Father Hook said the phone was “ringing off the hook” at St. Augustine with calls from concerned parishioners and others in the community. Interviewed as the parish made its preparations for Holy Week, the pastor said Adenhart’s death would “have a sobering impact” on the celebration.

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