The death of Tyler Skaggs this week cut short a promising baseball career but the Samohi grad will be as remembered locally for both his athletic prowess and his love of the community.
Skaggs was drafted by the Angels as the 40th pick in the 2009 draft, the same year he graduated from Samohi after a standout youth career.
Even though Skaggs grew up in Santa Monica, he was never a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Instead, he followed the lead of his stepbrother and became a devout Angels fan watching his favorite player, Tim Salmon, win the World Series with the team.
In his first year of professional baseball, playing for the single-A Orem Owlz, Skaggs helped the team win the Pioneer league.
“I feel really good,” Skaggs said of the accomplishment at the time. “Everybody on the team is really cool even though I’m the youngest guy.”
He quickly earned a reputation in the minor leagues.
In his second season of professional ball, Skaggs, was named to the Midwest League All Star team. Skaggs, playing for the Los Angeles Angels’ double A affiliate the Cedar Rapids Kernels as a starting pitcher was one of seven teammates who appeared in the game.
His success drew attention from other teams in the league and the former Samohi star was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. While playing for the Diamondbacks single A team, the Visalia Rawhide, he led all minor leagues in strikeouts and earned his second all-star award.
At age 20 he was promoted to the Double-A Mobile where he helped the team win the Southern League title. That year, he was also a starter in the XM All-Star Futures Game.
He made his major league debut in 2012 with six starts for the Diamondbacks and had a roller coaster year in 2013 moving between minor league teams and the majors before coming back to the Angels as part of a three-team deal between the Angels, Diamondbacks and White Sox.
“It was a dream come true,” Skaggs said in 2014. “The fact that I was drafted by my favorite team; I was head over heels. Then when they traded me, I was heartbroken. But now I’m back! And I’m excited for the opportunity.”
He became a fixture on the Angels roster in 2016 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. He made a career-high 24 starts last year, but missed time in April this season because of a sprained ankle before coming back strong.
“Tyler has, and always will be, an important part of the Angels Family,” said the statement issued by the Angels this week. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Carli and his entire family during this devastating time.”
Skaggs died Monday after being found unresponsive in his hotel room in Texas before the team’s scheduled series opener against the Rangers. Police in Southlake, Texas, said they were investigating, but that no foul play was suspected. Skaggs was pronounced dead at the scene after police responded to a call at the hotel Monday afternoon. The season opener between the Angels and the Rangers was postponed.
With the team out of town, dozens of fans went to Angel Stadium and gathered out front in the hours after Skaggs’ death was announced. They left flowers, hats, baseballs, signs, photos and other memorabilia in a makeshift memorial mound.
“Words cannot express the deep sadness we feel right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with (wife) Carli and their families. Remembering him as a great teammate, friend, and person who will forever remain in our hearts… we love you, 45,” All-Star center fielder Mike Trout wrote on Twitter.
Skaggs was part of the same Angels draft class as Mike Trout, and they were roommates in the low minor leagues before Skaggs was traded to Arizona. They played on the same team in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2010.
Local officials said Skaggs was a valued member of the community.
Dr. Ben Drati, Superintendent of the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District said they were devastated to hear the news.
“Tyler continued to make visits to our schools the past several years to speak with students and we proudly watched his ascent in professional baseball, along with his family,” he said in a statement. “Tyler’s mother, Debbie, was a previous girls softball coach at Samohi and is currently a physical education teacher. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and fans during this difficult time.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.