Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout broke down in tears after his team’s emotional win in Texas just one day after the death of teammate Tyler Skaggs – as his close friend and Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin paid tribute by scratching his number 45 into the mound.
Trout led a parade of Angels into an interview room on Tuesday night following their 9-4 win over the Texas Rangers after their 27-year-old teammate was found dead in his room at the team hotel a day earlier.
Police have ruled out both suicide and foul play but an official cause of death has not been reported.
The two-time AL MVP tried to smile when it was his turn to talk to reporters, only to find himself fighting back tears almost immediately.
‘It’s just a tough 24 hours,’ Trout said as he sniffed and gained a handle on his emotions.
‘I can’t explain it man. Lost a teammate, lost a friend, a brother. Just got to get through it. It’s tough. My first at-bat, I get up there, all I do is think about him.
‘Skaggsy wouldn’t want us to take another day off. The energy he brought to the clubhouse, every time you saw him, just pick me up.’
Andrew Heaney, a starter alongside Skaggs who said the fellow left-hander was his best friend, choked back sobs before finding his composure.
‘There’s probably about 100 other people out there that would say he was their best friend too. Because he treated everybody like that. He just had such an infectious personality,’ Heaney said as he tried to control his sobs.
Justin Upton provided the first light moment of the day, filling the room with laughter by stepping to the microphone when someone asked how Skaggs would respond to a big win and saying, ‘Right now, he’d be saying, ‘We’re nasty!”
Within seconds, Upton was struggling to figure out a way to wrap up his remarks, lowering his head before raising it to try to continue.
‘Honestly, there was nobody happier to win a ballgame than Skaggs,’ Upton said.
‘Walking through that line in the clubhouse, we’re going to miss him, his high-fiving. We’re going to remember that energy for a long time.’
Meanwhile, Washington Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin paid tribute to Skaggs by scratching his number 45 into the mound in Washington D.C. Tuesday night.
He also honored his late friend by switching his number 46 jersey for the 45 jersey that Skaggs would have worn.
Corbin, who was drafted with Skaggs in 2009 and traded together the following year, broke down during his warm up and again after the game.
‘He’s just all I’m thinking about,’ Corbin said following the victory against the Marlins.
Patrick Corbin writes 45 on the mound to pay tribute to his best friend Tyler Skaggs. pic.twitter.com/tUVbZRb3mK
The Angels decided to play a day after the postponement of the series opener against the Rangers.
Skaggs was found unresponsive in his hotel room in Texas on Monday. A cause of death has not been reported.
Before Angels starter Jose Suarez threw his first pitch in the bottom of the first inning, the left-hander appeared to write something in the dirt with his finger. He then touched the No. 45 painted on the back of the mound and tapped his heart.
Justin Bour pointed skyward after his two-run single in the sixth inning, when the Angels went ahead to stay with four runs to break a 3-3 tie. Kole Calhoun was more emphatic with his reaction when crossing home plate after his two-run homer in the eighth.
‘No, it wasn’t normal. And it felt like there was much more urgency to win,’ manager Brad Ausmus said. ‘It’s been a rough 24 hours, and we haven’t had a lot to smile about, so a win would give us something.’
There was a moment of silence before the game, with the players followed their coaches lined up outside the dugout. Pitchers Andrew Heaney and Cam Bedrosian held Skaggs’ No. 45 jersey.
‘It was just kind of something unplanned. His jersey was hanging in his locker. We wanted to take him out there with us one more time,’ Heaney said.
Public address announcer Chuck Morgan introduced the moment of silence by saying the Rangers offered their deepest sympathies and condolences to Skaggs’ family, his teammates and the entire Angels organization.
The introductions of the starting lineups by Morgan before that were uncharacteristically subdued, and the Rangers ran to their positions for the start of the game quietly without any music playing in the stadium.
When Rangers batters were introduced, there was no walk-up music played. Also missing were the normal between-inning shenanigans and the fireworks that usually marked Texas homers – Delino DeShields went deep in the third inning.
‘There are no words to express our sadness today,’ Angels owner Arte Moreno said before the game.
Ausmus said the team gathered together a couple of times Monday at the team hotel about 20 miles from the ballpark. He wiped away tears when speaking about Skaggs before the game.
Asked about his message to his players, Ausmus said that was a ‘family conversation’ that would remain between them.
Cleveland Indians pitcher Adam Plutko told CNN on Wednesday that ‘a lot of questions’ were being asked about his shock death.
‘I’ve talked to a lot of guys who have known him and everybody’s saying the same thing – it’s really sad and upsetting,’ he said.
When asked if Skaggs had suffered from any mental health or medical issues prior to his death, Plutko said he didn’t know of any that he could speak to.
General manager Billy Eppler described Skaggs as a teammate, a brother, a friend and most importantly a husband and a son who ‘brought joy to everybody around him.’
Angels players wore a black encircled patch with No. 45 above the heart of their uniforms.
With the team out of town, fans went to Angel Stadium, where they left flowers, hats, baseballs, signs, photos and other memorabilia in a makeshift memorial mound.
The poignant display resembled the fan-created memorial for Nick Adenhart in 2009 after the rookie pitcher was killed by a drunk driver. That tribute stayed out front of the Big A through the summer.
Team president John Carpino said the Angels would pay tribute to Skaggs in much the same way they did Adenhart, who was killed after only his fourth major league game.
‘The way we’ll honor them both is just watching these guys play,’ Carpino said, referring to the players sitting to his left before the game. ‘As far as the stadium, just typical with a patch and all that, but honoring him so much more with our thoughts and our hearts is the most important thing.’