In Midst Of Heartache Over Death Of Pitcher Tyler Skaggs, Angels-Rangers Series Begins

ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) —  Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus says playing a game is “going to be a refuge for players” as they grieve for late teammate Tyler Skaggs.

Los Angeles is preparing to play its first game since the 27-year-old pitcher died Monday.

When asked about how to help support his players through this tragedy, Ausmus said, “I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me including managers who have gone through similar [things] and – to a man – it’s the same advice, and that is ‘there’s no handbook to this’. You’ve just kinda gotta go with your honest feelings. If you do that then you’re not going to be wrong “

Asked about the decision to play Tuesday night, Ausmus said the first game back was going to be tough regardless, and he isn’t sure sitting in a hotel room an extra day would do the players any good.

“The team all got together a couple times and some of the guys spoke, but I think most importantly in the end we were able to talk about Tyler and laugh at some of the stories and some of the goofy things he did, so, it was good,” an emotional Ausmus said.

Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus talks about the passing of pitcher Tyler Skaggs (CBS 11)

Angels general manager, Billy Eppler, who sat next to Ausmus during an afternoon news conference at Globe Life Park said, We lost a member of our family yesterday. Tyler Skaggs was a teammate, a brother, a friend. And most important of all, he was a husband and a son. He was an exceptional young man with an entire life so full of promise yet to live.”

Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus and general manager Billy Eppler speak about the death of Tyler Skaggs (CBS 11)

“A lot of problems go away when the first pitch is thrown until the last pitch is thrown,” Eppler said, adding that Skaggs would still be weighing heavy on the hearts of the players.

Asked what it is like to persevere as a player when this happen when he good friend and pitcher Darryl Kile died in his hotel room on a road trip in 2002, Ausmus said, “This feels identical it really does. Now I don’t have to go on the field but it’s very similar.  Like is said, once the game starts it actually is a refuge because it takes your mind off it, it distracts you for a little while. And then when you go back to your hotel room you’re reminded of the reality. It helped me get away and it’s hard. Today is one of the hardest days… and I know it gets easier… but it’s difficult. “

Rangers manager Chris Woodward says he can’t even imagine what Ausmus and his players are going through as they get ready for their game a night after the death of Los Angeles pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

“I hate to even put myself into that, because it breaks my heart just to think about something like that,” Woodward said about three hours before Tuesday night’s scheduled first pitch. “The shock of it all, it’s heartbreak.”

Woodward says he reached out to Ausmus and said the Rangers would lend support in any way they could for the Angels.

“Obviously once the game starts, the game is going to be the game,” Woodward said. “Both teams are going to play like they normally would, but there’s still going to be something over the stadium that’s a little different.”

“I told ‘Skaggsy’ I thought he could be an All-Star. I still think he can. The more I’m around him… or the more I was around him, he was just a happy person,” said Ausmus. “He’s got the type of personality that draws others in. Like I said, he’s goofy in a very funny way. This road trip to Dallas he come up to me four or five days before and said hey we’re going to Texas for two series’ do you care if we all dress up in western gear or cowboy gear. So he kinda spearheaded that. That’s one of the last pictures we have of ‘Skaggsy’ was with his teammates all dressed up on cowboy gear. And the last image I have of him is him standing on the plane with this awful cowboy shirt on playing cards so… I’ll miss him.”

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The Angels’ clubhouse was closed to reporters before the game. The team said it would closed afterward, too.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)