Darren O'Day made his Mets debut Thursday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, but his thoughts were 3,000 miles away, back in Orange County, where former teammate and friend Nick Adenhart died in a traffic accident at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.
The Mets plucked O'Day from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft last December after the sidearm reliever played with Adenhart at Triple-A Salt Lake last season. The night before O'Day took the mound for his new team, Adenhart, a rookie righthander, pitched six shutout innings against the Athletics.
"I distinctly remember last year when I got sent down to Salt Lake and he called me the first night," said O'Day, who was visibly upset as he talked with reporters. "He went out of his way to welcome me to the team. He was an awesome teammate and a great friend. He'll be missed. I wish I would have called him last night or at least sent him a text message or something. I sent him one today, but that doesn't really do much good."
O'Day appeared to be on the verge of breaking down after that last sentence. He didn't learn of Adenhart's death until an hour or so before yesterday's game against the Reds. When O'Day relieved Oliver Perez with one out in the fifth, he hit the first batter he faced and gave up a two-run single before his stint was over.
"You go out there and do your job, but you can't . . . it's something you don't just block out, especially a couple of hours after you find out," O'Day said.
O'Day talked to Adenhart a few days earlier, "I told him congrats for making the team and that I had been watching him all spring training," O'Day said. "Last year, he had all the talent in the world but couldn't figure it out. Then he figures it out, and six hours later, he's gone."
In Baltimore, the Yankees' CC Sabathia was among the first players to notice the bulletin on ESPN about Adenhart. Sabathia got the clubhouse music turned off, and within a moment or two, most of the Yankees were gathered around the TV.
Said Joe Girardi: "It's sad, it really is. You think of a young man who realizes a dream and gets to the major leagues, throws six shutout innings, drives home and dies. Life's not supposed to be like that . . . Your heart goes out to the family of the young man."