Baseball’s mourning of Angels pitcher reflects on Tampa prep standout

The death of Tyler Skaggs touches Giancarlo Stanton, who grieved the loss of Alonso High alum Jose Fernandez in 2016.
Players and fans held a moment of silence for Angles pitcher Tyler Skaggs on Monday before the Rays-Orioles game on Monday. Skaggs, 27, passed away on Monday in Southlake, Texas. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
Players and fans held a moment of silence for Angles pitcher Tyler Skaggs on Monday before the Rays-Orioles game on Monday. Skaggs, 27, passed away on Monday in Southlake, Texas. DIRK SHADD | Times
Published July 2

ST. PETERSBURG — Giancarlo Stanton knows all too well what the Los Angeles Angels are enduring in the wake of Tyler Skaggs’ unexpected death.

Stanton, now with the New York Yankees, went through a similar period of grief when his then-Miami Marlins teammate and former Alonso High School graduate Jose Fernandez died in a 2016 boating accident.

He felt called to speak up about the experience Monday afternoon in an Instagram post from his personal account.

“RIP Bro, my heart goes out to your family,” he wrote. “My message to the @angels while having no time for yourself to grieve is to hug each other, laugh, cry, lift the ones taking it extra hard up.”

Fernandez, who led Alonso to state championships in 2009 and 2011, died on Sept. 25 after his boat crashed into a jetty off South Beach driving what was estimated to be about 65 mph. About 24 hours later on Sept. 26, Fernandez’s team suited up for their game the next day against the New York Mets. They’d walk off the home field with a 7-3 win.

The Angels were in a similar position as they took the field Tuesday night on the road against the Texas Rangers for the series opener. Monday’s game was postponed after Skaggs, 27, was found dead in his hotel room hours before the first pitch was slated. But the team felt it best to get back on the field Tuesday.

“The game itself is going to be a refuge for the guys where they can turn their minds off and just focus on baseball,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I don’t know if sitting in a hotel room would do them any good.”

Officials have said no foul play was involved, and it reportedly did not involve suicide. But the cause of death remained undetermined on Tuesday and an investigation continued. Ausmus, general manager Billy Eppler and owner Artie Moreno led an emotional media conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Ausmus fought back tears and Moreno spoke of the void left by Skaggs’ death. Players stood in the back of the room and several visibly fought back tears. Eppler said the team has been made better through its association with Skaggs.

“Grief is personal to all of us,” Eppler said. “It doesn’t have a timeline, it doesn’t have a road map. But what is most important is that we’ll all be here for each other, as a team, as an organization and as a family. I cannot truly say how much we’re going to miss Tyler."

It’s the second time in 10 years the Angels have lost a player. In 2009, the team’s rookie pitcher, Nick Aidenhart died in a car crash involving a drunk driver hours after pitching in a game. At least six major league players have died in their prime in the last 10 years, not the least being Fernandez, considered to be a rising star and the heart and soul of the team.

“You’re going to wonder why all of this is happening, is it real, why are u suiting up to play a game that seems irrelevant," Stanton continued in his post. “Some Anger will ensue while u have to grieve in a fish bowl.. A lot will go through your mind. So stay together through that.”

“The first days back to schedule are the weirdest feeling, from the energy to the questions to having to walk by his locker,” Stanton wrote. “Try to Focus & understand how important your strength is for his family, all of your supporters & anyone looking for the power to overcome something. They’re looking @ you for guidance. So you all really need each other right now. Stay strong fellas I’m thinking about you!”

Former Rays third baseman Trevor Plouffe befriended Skaggs when he played for the Angels. Plouffe was in Skaggs’ wedding just seven months ago. Now, he’ll have to see his friend again under much different circumstances.

“You were like a brother to me. And I don’t just throw that word around,” Plouffe wrote Monday afternoon.

Current Minnesota Twins first baseman and former Rays player C.J. Cron took to twitter after the announcement of Skaggs’ death. Cron was also at Skaggs’ New Year’s Eve wedding.

The Rays observed a moment of silence for Skaggs before its game against Baltimore on Monday. Pitcher Jose Alvarado and outfielder Avisail Garcia had tributes to the late pitcher on their hats.

Times wires were used in report. Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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