BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
When the LA Angels begin their ALCS battle with the New York Yankees Friday night, they'll be playing with an emotional theme that Southern Californians are quite familiar with.
In 1989, the Loyal Marymount University Lions faced the tragic loss of 23-year old Hank Gathers on Sunday March 4, 1990 due to a heart attack. It was a death that stunned the sporting world as the Lions had to prepare for the NCAA Tournament without their young star.
They used this tragedy, and their emotional ride led them to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. During the tournament, the Lions roared past the defending National Champions, the Michigan Wolverines 149-115.
Nineteen years later, the Angels carry the same heavy hearts the Lions faced when Gathers passed away as Pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed in an auto accident due to a drunk driver at the age of 22 just hours after being the starting pitcher against the Oakland A's on April 9th.
All-year long, the Angels have paid tribute to Adenhart as they had a full photo of him on the outfield wall in their stadium. The Angels posed for a team photo in front of the wall, hung his uniform in the dugout and kept it in his locker. When the LA Angels clinched the American League West Division title on Monday Sept 28 with an 11-0 rout over the Texas Rangers, they soaked Adenhart's jersey with beer, champagne and tears holding his No. 34 high in the middle of the celebration he missed.
For those individuals who objected to the alcohol on his jersey because of the drunk driving tragedy, take a chill pill. Teams have always celebrated this way so there is no reason to get too sensitive about this issue. His spirit was an inspiration to his team all year and will be for this franchise for many years to come.
The amazing part about the Adenhart and Gathers tragedies is both teams had success in the postseason. The Angels swept the Boston Red Sox 3-0 in the American League Division Series and Adenhart's jersey was soaked again. Whether they defeat the NY Yankees in this years playoffs remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain, they''ll be the sentimental favorites to win the World Series.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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