Suns honor Adenhart at Municipal Stadium
Nick Adenhart's mother, Janet Gigeous, throws out the first pitch to Adenhart's Williamsport High School teammate and catcher David Warrenfeltz prior to the Hagerstown Suns game Tuesday. (By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer)
Adenhart pitched in many places during his brief Major League Baseball career, including Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. Nothing beat Hagerstown's old ballpark.
"This was one of his favorite places," said Janet Gigeous, Adenhart's mother. "He loved coming here for games. He had his favorite place to sit behind the radar guns to watch the pitchers. It helped him when he played here."
Now, Adenhart is a permanent fixture at one of the places he called home.
The Hagerstown Suns honored the late Williamsport star with Nick Adenhart Night on Tuesday by placing a plaque bearing his name on its Wall of Fame in the right field corner to highlight a full night of festivities at Municipal Stadium.
A crowd of 883 — many from Williamsport and Halfway — turned out to remember the local star who was Washington County's link to the majors. He was killed April 8, 2009, in an automobile accident involving a drunken driver in Fullerton, Calif., after he pitched his season debut and his best game as a professional.
They weren't only remembering the player, but the son, teammate, classmate and friend who was taken at age 22.
Adenhart starred with Halfway Little League, the Hagerstown PONY League, St. Maria Goretti and Williamsport High before being drafted in the 14th round of the 2004 draft by the Angels.
"Some of the happiest times in our lives were when Nick and (brother Henry Gigeous) were playing youth baseball," Gigeous said. "For us, this is an awareness type of event to help keep Nick's memory alive and to keep youth baseball alive."
As part of the evening, the Suns organized a silent auction of baseball memorabilia with all the proceeds — and part of the game's gate receipts — being donated to the Nick Adenhart Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization started by Adenhart's family to benefit and keep youth baseball, and Nick's name, alive.
"We were hoping the memorial fund would enable us to do that," Gigeous said. "It is a simple mission that we didn't want to get too complicated. Nick played youth baseball and we hope to keep it open."
Gigeous said most of the money collected has gone to areas where Adenhart played, but there was a possibility it could go national someday. That is one reason the work continues to keep the fund growing.
Gigeous said the idea for the event was created by the Suns, which really impressed her.
"None of the people in the Suns' front office knew Nick, yet they wanted to do this to help," Gigeous said. "(Suns director of community relations and marketing Sara Grasmon) pulled it all together with passion and kept us informed of what was going on. She didn't know Nick, but she knows us all now."
Fans waited at the gate to be part of the night and to see the 63 items that were put up for auction, separated in four shifts. Items from 14 major league teams and a number of minor league teams included autographed hats, bats, balls and jerseys.
There were a couple of Adenhart jerseys, along with the shirts of Angels teammates Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana up for bidding. Baseballs autographed by St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa, Angels pitcher Jared Weaver and Chicago's Mark Buehrle. The Suns provided items signed by Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
Gigeous spoke to the fans before the game, thanking them for their attendance, for remembering Adenhart and for their contributions for the fund.
"Most of the money we have collected has been from here," she said.
Gigeous kicked off the night — with the red-and-white Adenhart plaque hovering over her left shoulder — by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch off the mound her son used so many times before. The pitch was received by David Warrenfeltz, who caught for Adenhart in high school and is now the baseball coach at Williamsport. Like her son, Gigeous tested Warrenfeltz with a ball in the dirt.
But in essence, it was the perfect symbol of the evening. Adenhart enjoyed playing baseball with his teammates at Municipal Stadium in front of friends and family.
"It's all about kids playing baseball," Gigeous said. "That was what Nick liked and that's why we set up the fund to keep that happening. Like I said, it is a simple concept, but as long as kids have a chance to play baseball, Nick would be happy."