Angel Stadium
Getty Images

In no-hitter, Angels found many ways to honor Tyler Skaggs

2 Comments

It’s been an emotional two weeks for the Angels following the tragic death of 27-year-old Tyler Skaggs on July 1. They returned to Angel Stadium for their first home game of the month on Friday and promptly tossed a jaw-dropping 13-0 no-hitter, led by the combined efforts of rookie ‘opener’ Taylor Cole and righty Félix Peña.

Prior to the game’s triumphant conclusion, however, the Angels paid special homage to the late pitcher. Skaggs’ mother, Debbie, delivered the ceremonial first pitch to Angels pitcher Andrew Heaney—throwing a picture-perfect strike down the middle that, as Cole put it, set the tone for the rest of the night.

“It all started with Debbie,” Cole told reporters after the game. “She threw it right down the middle … couldn’t have started it with a better pitch.”

The team also held a moment of silence for Skaggs and played a video tribute. Around the ballpark, evidence of Skaggs’ legacy was clear. Outside the entrance, fans left flowers, candles, caps, and team memorabilia in a makeshift memorial. On the field, Skaggs’ jersey hung in the dugout, and a portrait of the young pitcher and a large no. 45 patch—the same design as the one they’ll wear on all uniforms for the rest of the 2019 season—were painted on the center field fence. In the clubhouse, as they’ve done on the road, the Angels maintained Skaggs’ locker.

In the moments after Peña delivered his 81st pitch of the night, a 1-0 fastball that the Mariners’ Mallex Smith returned to second base for a game-ending groundout, the Angels rallied together to honor their teammate once more. They removed the no. 45 jerseys they had each donned at the start of the game and placed them on the mound.

“He’s probably up there saying we’re ‘nasty,’” Mike Trout said in the postgame presser. “What an unbelievable game to be a part of. I’m speechless. This is the best way possible to honor him tonight.”

For others, the win felt therapeutic. “Everybody after the game, we’re running out on the field and everybody’s celebrating,” Heaney said in a quote captured by MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. “Three hours earlier, and I don’t know about anybody else, but I had tears in my eyes. You’re sort of reliving your bad memories, bad thoughts. Just for tonight and maybe moving forward, you kind of change your mindset from when you think about him. You’re thinking about the loss of a friend, of a teammate, whatever it may be. But moving forward, hopefully it can be a little bit more of when you think of him, you think of his jersey, you think of his name, it brings back positive memories.”

It wasn’t just that the no-hitter was tossed in their first home game since Skaggs’ death, or that the feat was completed on a night that already evoked such strong emotions from both the team and the crowd. It was also the fact that they pulled it off just 1.5 hours before Skaggs’ 28th birthday, scoring seven runs in the first inning and 13 runs total in the league’s 13th combined no-no to date. And the fact that, as Cole and Peña worked in tandem to build nine pristine innings against Seattle, they became the first pitchers to toss a combined no-hitter in California since July 13, 1991… the very day Skaggs was born.

Astros block Detroit Free Press from clubhouse at Justin Verlander’s request

Getty Images
19 Comments

Last night a BBWAA-credentialed reporter from the Detroit Free Press was barred from the Houston Astros’ clubhouse by team security following the Tigers win over the Astros. The reporter — who was almost certainly Anthony Fenech, who covers the Tigers — was kept out at the request of Astros starter Justin Verlander. Here’s the scene as described by the Free Press. The article contains a photo, taken by Fenech, of the three Astros officials who blocked the door to prevent him access:

At 9:35 p.m., the Astros opened their clubhouse to credentialed media in coordination with MLB rules. As other media members entered the clubhouse, the Free Press reporter with a valid BBWAA-issued credential was blocked from entering by three Astros security officials . . . The reporter contacted Mike Teevan, MLB vice president of communications, who said he would immediately reach out to Dias regarding the issue. Dias eventually gave the reporter access to the clubhouse at 9:41 p.m., after Verlander’s media session had ended . . . Once inside, the reporter approached Verlander, who said: “I’m not answering your questions.” When asked to comment on Wednesday’s loss, Verlander walked away.

That after-the-fact access for the reporter came only after he called Major League Baseball who, in turn, called Astros officials, presumably, to tell them that they cannot bar credentialed media.

It’s unclear at the moment what the beef is between Verlander and either the Free Press or the reporter. For what it’s worth, I follow Fenech and, while he’s a bit more witty and, occasionally, cutting than your average beat reporter, he’s self-effacing and doesn’t do cheap shots. Though he talks often about former Tigers and has made a point to highlight Verlander’s post-Tigers career whenever relevant, to my knowledge he hasn’t said or done anything specific to tweak Verlander in the past.

I will note, though, that last night, about eight minutes before Fenech was barred access, the Free Press Twitter account sent this tongue-in-cheek tweet out. It’s unclear if he or someone else at the paper wrote it:

Maybe that pissed off Verlander, who is known to be active on social media and is usually pretty aware of what’s being said about him. Hard to say.

What’s easy to say, though, is that no matter what has hurt Verlander’s fragile ego, the Astros barring the reporter from the clubhouse is in blatant violation of the agreement between Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America, which ensures access for credentialed reporters. Verlander doesn’t have to talk to the guy — he doesn’t have to talk to anyone he doesn’t want to talk to — but the team honoring Verlander’s wishes to bar access is totally unacceptable and, frankly, about as low-rent as it gets from a media relations perspective.

We’ll probably hear more about this later today.