Weaver honors Adenhart with name of son
Angels ace names first-born Aden to pay tribute to late Halos pitcher
CHICAGO -- It was late on the East Coast, and Janet Gigeous was sound asleep in Fort Myers, Fla., when the cell phone on her nightstand buzzed with a text message. She initially figured it was her 19-year-old son, Henry, who usually texts to say goodnight. Instead it was a good friend of her departed son, Nick Adenhart, with the link to a story about how Jered Weaver was keeping her boy's memory alive.
Kristin Weaver gave birth to the couple's first child on Friday. He weighed eight pounds, measured 21 inches and his first name was Aden -- in honor of the Angels pitcher whose death left a hole in Weaver's heart.
"We were very touched," Gigeous said in a phone conversation, four years and three months to the day after Adenhart and two others were killed in a car accident. "My gosh, he'll think of him every day when he picks up his son. There's not too many things that you can do that are more meaningful than that."
Weaver has always been fond of the name Aden; the only question was how to spell it.
A while ago, the Weavers struck a unique chord with an 11-year-old named Aidan who visited Angel Stadium through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He passed away last September. The name of the Weavers' first-born child would honor that boy. And about a month ago, they decided the spelling of it would pay tribute to Adenhart.
"I know it means a lot to us to be able to keep Nick's memory alive," Weaver said. "We're always thinking about him. I think it was the thing we wanted to do to support him and his family and make sure his legacy lives on."
Weaver (SoCal bred) and Adenhart (a Maryland product) grew up worlds apart, but they bonded in the spring of 2009. Weaver, four years Adenhart's senior, saw talent in the Angels' top prospect and wanted to help him harness it, after a 2008 season in which he gave up 12 runs in 12 innings of three May starts.
Weaver took Adenhart under his wing and quickly found out they shared a lot in common.
"I think they liked a lot of the same things," Gigeous said. "They're pretty laid back in a way, except when they get on the mound. They definitely have that attitude to pitch in the Major Leagues. And they have a lot of interests outside of baseball. They're very well-rounded people."
On April 9, 2009, at about 12:30 a.m. PT, the Mitsubishi Eclipse that Adenhart was a passenger in was slammed by a drunk driver who ran a red light in Fullerton, Calif., mere hours after Adenhart pitched six innings of shutout ball in his first Major League start of 2009.
Adenhart was rushed to UCI-Medical Center, where, at age 22 and in the onset of a promising career, he was pronounced dead. Major League Baseball cancelled that night's game, and a day later, Weaver fittingly started the first one after Adenhart's tragic passing.
"It was tough," Angels manager Mike Scioscia recalled. "Those guys had a special bond and friendship."
Weaver said a prayer for his departed friend that Friday afternoon in Anaheim, then dug his index finger onto the clay and scrawled "NA" on the back of the mound. He's done the same thing in the 141 starts he's had since.
Gigeous knows about it, but hasn't really seen it.
Baseball is no longer a game she can watch.
"That's one thing that's very difficult, to watch Major League Baseball," said Gigeous, who remarried 23 years ago and moved from Illinois to Florida 18 months ago. "I'm still a fan at heart, but it's very hard for me to watch a game or be in the room when a game's on. I just have to be honest. For Nick not be out there, that has been difficult."
Weaver still keeps in touch with Henry, Adenhart's stepbrother, but it's been a while since he spoke with Gigeous. They saw each other a couple years ago, when the Angels played the White Sox in Chicago, and soon, Weaver will send Adenhart's parents a letter to, as he said, "Let them know the organization and myself and Kristin are still thinking about him, and that he's still in our thoughts and prayers."
Immediately after finding out about Weaver's son, Gigeous looked up the meaning of "Aden."
"It means fire, or full of fire," she said, proudly.
Gigeous has been invited to all of Adenhart's friends' weddings and has been touched by every gesture that has played a part in honoring her son, from tattoos to hand-written letters to more public expressions -- like Miguel Gonzalez wearing the glove Adenhart gave him, or Darren O'Day speaking at Adenhart's camp in Williamsport, Md., or the Angels naming one of their awards after Adenhart.
"There's something that reminds you of him once a day -- at least once a day -- that you think, 'What would he be doing now? Where would he be?' Just little things," Gigeous said. "We're a very close extended family. So when the whole family is together, we talk about him all the time. We recently had a lot of family in for the Fourth of July. It's just common. We have a lot of Nick stories. And it's nice, because nobody's afraid to tell them or talk about him or keep his memory alive."
Weaver won 16 games in that '09 season, posting a 3.75 ERA while establishing himself as the Angels' ace amid a memorable 97-win campaign. And over each of the next three years, he'd finish among the top five in American League Cy Young Award voting.
But Adenhart has never left his mind.
And soon enough, Aden will know all about him.
"Once he gets older and can kind of understand how and why we came up with the name, he'll have a pretty good appreciation for what his name was all about," Weaver said. "It'll be nice to be able to explain that to him."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.