Originally posted on Hall of Very Good  |  Last updated 7/14/12

 TIM ANDERSON on NICK ADENHART
One in every 25,000 people becomes a professional athlete.

The odds are slim. Those who look past the numbers, or at the stat as a challenge, employing hard work and dedication as tools for success, however, are the ones. Growing up in a town barely inhabiting 1,500 residents, nearly 80 miles northwest of a major city, the dream of becoming a professional athlete seems that much more impossible. In 2003, a major league pitching talent was developing in front of Williamsport, Maryland's eyes.
Before his junior year of high school, 16-year old right-handed pitcher Nick Adenhart was named the top junior prospect by Baseball America. Pitching to a 6-0 record with an ERA barely above one, Adenhart lived-up to hype and gained even more by being named the Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year.
One in nine Major League pitchers received Tommy John surgery, according to USA Today research in 2003.
Committed to play baseball at the University of North Carolina, Adenhart posted a 5-1 record with a 0.73 ERA and 2.2 strikeouts per inning entering the final game of his senior season. With his draft stock rising, Adenhart began to set his sights on the Majors. In Baseball America's Class of 2004 Prospect Rankings, Adenhart was listed number one in the nation, ahead of current MLB pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Phil Hughes, Yovani Gallardo, and David Price, as well as position players Matt Wieters, Dexter Fowler, Mark Trumbo, and Billy Butler.
While pitching his final game in front of reportedly a dozen scouts, Adenhart felt a pop in his elbow while facing the third batter of the game; an injury that ultimately lead to Tommy John surgery, dropping him from the projected number one overall pick to 413th by the Anaheim Angels, prompting him to forgo his scholarship from UNC.
Pitching through the minor league affiliates of the Angels, Adenhart quickly became a serious major league talent again. Ironically, the curveball that dropped him from first to 413th was tearing up the minors, being voted the best in the Angels organization in three consecutive seasons.
One in roughly six minor league players reach the Majors.
As the youngest pitcher on an active Major League roster, 22-year old Adenhart made his big league debut against the Oakland Athletics. Lasting only two innings, Adenhart surrendered five earned runs on three hits and five walks. Adenhart finished the 2008 season with only three starts, collecting a 1-0 record with 12 innings pitched, 18 hits and 13 walks allowed, only four strikeouts, and 9.00 ERA.
In an interview with Baseball America, published April 6th, 2009, Adenhart spoke of his miserable 2008 season and his hopes for 2009. “I got called up, and I was realizing a dream. I felt like I had to not give up any runs and throw a shutout every time out and wow everybody. I put pressure on myself. That was enough of that. I'm just having fun now,” said Adenhart. Fans, the Angels, and Adenhart himself had high expectations for his 2009 season.
Making the club out of spring, Adenhart earned the third spot in the Angels' rotation and a start against the Oakland Athletics on April 8th in Anaheim. Pitching with an assumed chip on his shoulder, – a chip with the memory of the two-inning, five-run, five-walk debut against the A's – Adenhart pitched six shutout innings, striking out five in a no decision.
"I battled early and it felt good to get out of some jams," said Adenhart postgame.
One in three people will be involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lifetime.
As a passenger in a vehicle driven by a friend after the game, Adenhart and two others were killed while a fourth was injured when a drunk driver ran a red light and struck the car containing the pitcher, sending it into a telephone pole. The driver, a 22-year old with a DUI already on his record, received the maximum sentence: 51 years to life in prison.
One in one can prevent drunk driving.
Despite the obvious dangers of drunk driving, the statistics are staggering. Nearly three-fourths of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license while those who have yet to be convicted of a DUI have driven drunk an average of 80 times prior.
There are many services available to prevent other drunk driving fatalities and injuries; do not underestimate the power of preventing a friend from driving drunk, or even driving tipsy. One friend – one person – could have saved Adenhart's life. And the life of his friend. And the life of his other friend. And the life of his injured friend. And the life of the driver that is now spending his life in prison. Alternatives to driving when drunk are unlimited.
Taxiserviceusa.com offers a directory of over a thousand taxi services for all fifty states and public transportation is available throughout all major cities.
Major League Baseball is also doing their part in preventing fans from driving drunk after games. Along with numerous shuttles and transportation services to and from the games that can be found on each team's website, every stadium offers a program that allows fans to receive free beverages with their pledge to be a designated driver that night. Also, alcohol sales stop after the seventh inning at all ballparks.
For more information on how you can save lives through drunk driving prevention, visit adcouncil.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim Anderson is an 18-year-old that you may have spotted before in the bleachers of Camden Yards.  When he isn't chasing home runs in leftfield, Anderson aspires to be a journalist.  You can read more from him at Baseball and Things as well as over at The Diamonds Edge.


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