One year later, Lackey remembers Adenhart

BOSTON -- It was 6 a.m. when John Lackey received the phone call.

The person on the other end asked him if he had heard the news that Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart had died in a hit-and-run car accident only a few hours earlier. Lackey couldn’t believe it. He was devastated. Adenhart was only 22.

Despite the age difference, Lackey and Adenhart were friends. The veteran saw a lot of himself in the rookie since both were pitchers and drafted by the Angels in their early 20s. Lackey, who spent his entire career with the Angels before signing with the Red Sox as a free agent this past offseason, can’t believe it’s been exactly one year since that tragic day.

“No,” he said. “It took a while for it to even sink in. It’s not something you really get over. Regardless of baseball, he was a great guy. He was funny and guys liked to hang out with him. He was going to be a great pitcher, too. He had a lot of talent.”

Adenhart showcased that talent in his first start of the 2009 season. The young right-hander worked six scoreless innings and allowed only seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts against the Oakland Athletics on April 8 at Angel Stadium.

A few hours later on April 9, Adenhart was gone.

“You thought about it every day,” Lackey told ESPNBoston.com recently. “Every time you walked into the clubhouse his locker was right there. It was a tough deal, for sure. A couple of days prior to that, being the older starter on the team, I had taken him out to dinner and showed him around town. It happened three days after that, so it was pretty tough.”

An alleged drunk driver broadsided the car Adenhart and three friends were in, killing three of the four of them. The Angels postponed their next game against the A’s to mourn their loss. A makeshift memorial was placed at the entrance to the ballpark and fans stood around with candles, flowers and pictures. Some were crying. Others were stunned.

When baseball resumed in Southern California, the Red Sox were the Angels’ next opponent.

Prior to the first game between Boston and Los Angeles, the Angels held a tribute on the field. Lackey and outfielder Torii Hunter stood on the mound, holding Adenhart’s jersey as a moment of silence was observed.

“I read something that they’re going to take down the memorial on the anniversary,” he said. “It’s tough to know how long is long enough for that kind of thing. As an organization, the Angels were pretty first-class with the way they handled things. I was one of the fortunate guys, I got to go back to the funeral with [manager Mike] Scioscia and a couple of other guys. The way the organization handled it, it meant a lot to the family. His mom told me they appreciated the way we handled things. But still, it’s not something you ever really get over.”