Days before a road trip to play the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs asked his manager whether his teammates could dress up as cowboys.
Skaggs and teammates took a picture wearing their cowboy gear on Sunday. It’s one of the last photos Angels manager Brad Ausmus said the team has of the pitcher, who was found dead Monday in a Texas hotel room.
“The last image of I have of him is standing on the plane with this awful cowboy shirt on, playing cards,” Ausmus said Tuesday, smiling. “I’ll miss him.”
In an emotional, somber press conference, Angels executives remembered Skaggs for his playful nature and his impact on people inside and outside the clubhouse. Two jerseys bearing Skaggs’ name and number — 45 — hung in the background in Arlington, where the team will play the Rangers.
“He impacted a lot of people, and the community,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “He was a staple in our community with all the efforts of the Angels throughout Southern California. There are so many people that knew Tyler and loved Tyler.”
His memory lives on in hearts and minds
Eppler said Skaggs "was a teammate, he was a brother, a friend and most important of all, he was a husband and a son."
"For some reason that is incomprehensible to all of us, he lives on now only in our minds and in our hearts," Eppler said, as several Angels players sat nearby.
Skaggs was pronounced dead at the scene after he was found unresponsive at a Hilton in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Southlake, police said in a statement.
Foul play is not believed to be a factor at this point, Southlake police said.
"In these early stages of the investigation, it does not appear at this time that suicide was the cause of death," Southlake police officer Brad Uptmore told CNN.
Ausmus said players met several times after learning about Skaggs' death. They talked and laughed "about some of the stories, some of the goofy things he did" and listened to some of his favorite music, Ausmus said, his voice getting choked up.
"It was good," he said, wiping away tears with his forearm.
A personality that 'draws people in'
The Angels drafted Skaggs in 2009. He made his major league debut in 2012 and spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Skaggs last pitched Saturday, completing 4⅓ innings in the Angels' game against the Oakland As in Anaheim.
Skaggs was married at the end of 2018, according to his and his wife's Instagram accounts. Photos show them kissing and embracing on their wedding day.
Carli Skaggs on Sunday night shared a photo of her husband wearing a black cowboy hat and black shirt.
Tyler Skaggs later posted the picture on his Instagram account of him and his teammates wearing their cowboy hats, standing near a plane.
"Howdy y'all," Skaggs' post said. "#TexasRoadtrip"
"He's got the type of personality that draws others in," Ausmus said. "He's goofy in a very good, funny way," Ausmus said.
After he was hired last year, Ausmus said he had lunch with Skaggs in Santa Monica, where Skaggs went to high school.
Ausmus said he told Skaggs he could be an all-star.
"I still think he can," he said, choking up.
Playing for Tyler
The first of the four-game series against the Texas Rangers was postponed Monday after Skaggs' death. The Angels took the field Tuesday night against the Rangers.
The game began with a moment of silence to honor Skaggs. The Rangers will donate the proceeds from a fan raffle to the Angels Baseball Foundation in Skaggs' honor, the team said.
Eppler said he talked to some members of the team about playing. Skaggs would have wanted them to play, Eppler said.
"It's a time to allow them to get back into a routine and to have a period of time where they feel disconnected," Eppler said.
"A lot of problems go away when the first pitch is thrown, until the last pitch is thrown," he said.