The Tragic Death Of Nick Adenhart and How Baseball Needs To Send a Message

NJMCorrespondent IIIApril 10, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 08:  Nick Adenhart #34 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws a pitch against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium on April 8, 2009 in Anaheim, California. The Athletics defeated the Angels 6-4.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

“I can drive.”

How many times have you heard people say that, even though they have had too much to drink? It is an all too common occurrence in America.

Too many people think they are capable of driving, ignoring the fact that they are impaired. You may have driven home drunk before and not been caught.

You may have not endangered your life or the life of another. On Thursday morning, April 9, 2009, drunk driving claimed another life, Nick Adenhart's.

Nick Adenhart was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Baseball America listed him the top prospect in the Angels' farm system.

In all of the minors, he was ranked 68th by Baseball America. He had started three games last year, but posted a 9.00 ERA. He was then demoted to the minor leagues.

But instead of regressing due to this setback, he worked diligently to improve himself and get back to the Big Leagues.

This spring training, his effort got him a spot in the Angels' starting rotation. It is always a risk to put a rookie pitcher into a Major League starting rotation, but, in his first start of the season, he did not disappoint.

He pitched six innings of shutout baseball. I did not watch the game in its entirety, but I did see the highlights of his performance. What struck me was his poise and his demeanor when he was in jams in the first and the fifth inning.

He looked unflappable as he pitched his way out of trouble. In a tight ball game, he kept his cool and delivered when it mattered. That is what being an Major League pitcher is all about.

Sadly, after a dream-fulfilling outing, Nick Adenhart was killed Thursday morning.

This is more than a tragic story. It is a sickening story that a young man with his whole life ahead of him was killed due to the reckless actions of another man. Andrew Gallo, a repeat offender, was convicted of DUI in 2006 and was arrested in 2007 for drunk and disorderly conduct.

He was driving with a suspended license. This man did not even have the decency to own up to his error. Instead of staying at the scene like a man, he fled like a coward.

Along with being a coward, Gallo is a murderer. Coward and murderer characterize Andrew Gallo perfectly, and I challenge anyone to refute that.

He is facing three murder charges and is looking at a lengthy jail sentence. However, drunk driving is an all too common thing when it comes to athletes, because they do not pay for their actions.

 I remember when Leonard Little killed Susan Gutweiler in 1998. His blood alcohol level was more that double the statutory limit in the state of Missouri. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

In many states, that merits at a lengthy prison sentence. However, Little only received 90 days of jail time, 1,000 hours of community service, and was placed on four years of probation.

Even after killing someone due to his drunk driving, Leonard Little was again arrested for DWI and speeding in 2004. He failed three sobriety tests and smelled of alcohol.

In being characterized as a persistent offender, he was charged with a felony. However, he was acquitted and only found guilty of a misdemeanor speeding charge.

For the Gutweiler family, where was their justice? How many families could Leonard Little have destroyed in 2004? Yet, all he got was an eight-game suspension, only 90 days in jail, and he continued to play football until 2008. Does it surprise you that so many athletes drive drunk?

Donte Stallworth is being charged with DUI manslaughter. But, how long will he be put in jail? Will he walk away from court with just a slap on the wrist, like Leonard Little? I hope not.

The Reyes family deserves better than that. Just like the Gutweiler family deserved better. Because in the eyes of the law all men are equal.

Regardless of the money you have or the status you hold, in a courtroom, you must be judged as any other person.

Now, I am a Yankees fan. I am a fan of Joba Chamberlain. He is an important player for the Yankees' drive to a 27th World Series win. Despite that, he should not be playing for the Yankees right now. He should be suspended.

Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty of driving under the influence. He was sentenced to nine months probation, a $400 fine, and his license was suspended for 60 days.

But, he will pitch for the Yankees as if nothing happened. How much damage could Joba Chamberlain have done due to his foolish and careless actions?

In this tragedy, Bud Selig and MLBPA need to come together to end the drunk driving of MLB players. Severe suspensions need to be in place to discourage drunk driving.

If a person is guilty of DUI or DWI, they should be suspended for half the season. If they cause injury to anyone that does not lead to death or debilitation, they should be suspended for the whole season.

If their reckless actions led to the death or paralysis or they convicted a second time, they should never be allowed on a baseball field again.

Players will then think twice about driving drunk because they could lose their careers and cost their teams a chance to win the World Series.

There can be no tolerance for these kind of actions. None. If you want to show these athletes leniency, then go to the Gutweiler family or the Reyes family and tell them that.

I do not want to make Nick Adenhart in to a martyr. He did not choose to give his life to this cause. He was a victim. Nor do I want to make the two others who died or those injured into martyrs. They were victims.

His family and the other families are victims of something that occurs too often. It is time for the MLB, along with all of the sports world to take a stand against drunk driving.

They must show no tolerance for these irresponsible and life-threatening actions. We, as fans, must show no tolerance.

We are too tolerant to those who commit DUIs. We still go to the games to watch these players and spend our money that goes to towards their contracts.

Our tolerance gives rise to the deaths of innocent people. Our tolerance gives rise to tears of grieving mothers and anger of loving fathers. Our tolerance gives rise to the shattering of families with no one around to pick up the pieces. How can you tolerate that?

I wish to apologize for not knowing the names of the other victims involved. More specifically, I would like to apologize to the victims' families and friends.


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