We were overseas when the tragic news broke about former Santa Monica High pitcher Tyler Skaggs dying at a hotel room in Texas while with the Los Angeles Angels baseball team on a road trip. Skaggs was 27 years old. Upon returning from our trip, we checked into more about Tyler’s family and his senior season with the Vikings in 2009 when he was named all-state first team.
Cal-Hi Sports happened to be part of Student Sports and ESPN in 2009 and because of that we also were more connected to the Student Sports’ Area Code Games. Tyler was in that event in the summer of 2008 and was an impressive pitching prospect. In the 2009 high school season, he had given up playing football and basketball at Santa Monica and his recruiting/draft potential improved. He eventually would be picked at No. 40 overall in the supplemental draft by the Angels, who later traded him but got him back. He was in his fifth season as a starting pitcher for the Angels this year.
Despite only going 2-3 in 48 innings, Skaggs gained his all-state honor by striking out an impressive 76 batters in those innings and he also only had 11 walks. He struck out 12 batters in a game three times. He also had signed with Cal-State Fullerton, but didn’t go there after the draft.
That 2009 Cal-Hi Sports All-State First Team was exceptional. The two main player of the year candidates that season were Tyler Matzek of Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo) and Matt Hobgood (Norco). We picked Matzek as Mr. Baseball after he led Capo Valley to the CIF Southern Section D1 title with a home run at Angels Stadium in a win over Norco and Hobgood. The Norco standout (who also had 55 RBI as a hitter) was the Gatorade National Player of the Year. It’s the other players on that team, however, that make it even more special. Among those selected were future MLB standouts Nolan Arenado (El Toro), Mitch Haniger (San Jose Archbishop Mitty), Jake Marisnick (Riverside Poly), Matt Davidson (Yucaipa) and Ryon Healy (Encino Crespi).
The following year, in 2010, the Santa Monica High softball team, coached by Tyler’s mom, Debbie, won the CIF Southern Section Division IV title. The Vikings defeated North of Torrance 11-3 in the championship game, sparked by a grand slam from Emma Woo in the fifth inning that erased a 2-1 deficit. It was Debbie’s first and only CIFSS title in a nearly 25-year head coaching career and her son paid for championship rings. That championship was bittersweet since it came just one week after Santa Monica athletic director Norm Lacy had died from a heart attack.
We didn’t know until reading about Tyler and Debbie in the aftermath of Tyler’s death that longtime Valencia High softball coach Donna Lee is the twin sister of Debbie so Tyler would be her nephew. Donna coached at Valencia in 2007 when the Vikings went 32-1 and won the mythical national title.
Obviously, this is a terrible time for all who knew and loved Tyler. A lot of people not just in the California baseball community but in softball as well will be thinking about the family over the rest of the summer.