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OC Register: Angels’ return to Arlington stirs difficult memories of loss of Tyler Skaggs

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Growing up in Oklahoma, Andrew Heaney saw his first major league game at the 25-year-old ballpark that has been the home of the Texas Rangers, who were his favorite team as a kid.


“I hate this place,” the Angels pitcher said as he sat in the visiting team clubhouse at Globe Life Park on Monday. “That happened, and it completely erases all the good memories I had here. I’m over it. I’m glad there will be a new (ballpark) next year.”

That, of course, is the tragedy that still hangs over the Angels. The last time the Angels were here, Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room, rocking the organization and all of major league baseball.

It’s been seven weeks since Skaggs died on July 1, and questions remain, along with the grief.

Spokespeople from the Southlake Police Dept. and Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office both said on Monday that no further information can be released because the case is still open. The police said at the time that neither suicide nor foul play was suspected, but there has been no other information to explain the sudden passing of a seemingly healthy 27-year-old.

The day Skaggs died, the Angels’ game against the Rangers was postponed. That game will be made up on Tuesday, the first game of a split-admission doubleheader.

The Angels’ return to Arlington naturally reopens the emotional wounds that have been slowly healing.

“It brings back a lot of memories,” outfielder Kole Calhoun said. “It definitely makes you think about Skaggs and his family, (mother) Debbie and (wife) Carli, just keep hoping that they’re doing all right in this tough time. … A little bit takes you back to an empty kind of feeling.”

The Angels no longer stay in the hotel in suburban Southlake, about 20 minutes north of the ballpark, where Skaggs died. That night they switched to a hotel in downtown Dallas, and they returned to that hotel for this trip.

They are in the same clubhouse where they first pulled on their uniforms, bearing patches with Skaggs’ No. 45, to begin the return to the field in the wake of his death. They played the remaining three games of what had been scheduled to be a four-game series in July, winning two.

Skaggs’ jersey still hangs in a locker at Globe Life Park, just as it does in every clubhouse when the Angels are on the road. The Angels have left his locker at Angel Stadium exactly as he left it, down to the piece of bubblegum sitting next to his shoes.

The only addition is a baseball sitting on the top shelf. It is a memento from the combined no-hitter that Taylor Cole and Félix Peña pitched on July 12, the day all the players wore Skaggs’ name and number on their jerseys.

It was a high moment amid a tumultuous seven weeks, in which the Angels have played their best and worst baseball of the season.

They won 12 of the first 18 games after Skaggs’ death, reaching a high-water mark of five games over .500. Then they lost 14 of the next 18, essentially falling out of the playoff race and leaving them to play out the string of the season.

“It’s been a lot of extremely low moments,” Heaney said. “We’ve had some really great moments. We’ve come together as a group. Obviously, on the field, it’s been a little bit hit or miss. It’s just kind of been tough.”

The Angels’ recent struggles must be viewed in light of what they’ve endured. Not only did they lose their best starting pitcher, but one of the most well-liked, longest-tenured members of the team.

Heaney, who was one of Skaggs’ closest friends, said the healing has been slow.

“It’s like a new kind of normal, but it’s just a different norm,” he said. “It’s not the same. I don’t know. I already have a hard enough time understanding my own feelings and emotions about it.”

Mike Trout, who was Skaggs’ roommate during their first stop in the minor leagues after they were both drafted in 2009, said he knew this trip back to Arlington would be a challenge.

“You know you’re coming here, and it’s going to bring back memories of him,” Trout said. “We’ve done a good job over the last few weeks just staying together. These four games are going to be tough, and it’s the last time we come back here. We’ll get through these ones and see how it goes.”

Of some small consolation to the Angels, they will not come back to this ballpark again. The Rangers are opening a new ballpark across the street next season. The Angels, in fact, will play the first regular-season games there next March.

Although the players will be sitting in a new clubhouse, and with the hope of a new season, they will certainly still be dealing, to some extent, with the loss of Skaggs.

“Everything we do, it reminds you of him,” Trout said. “You see his jersey up. You see his locker. It’s tough as a friend, a teammate. We’ll get through it. We’re always going to be thinking about him.”

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