Jacobs freshman Henry Gigeous delivers a pitch against Dundee-Crown Wednesday.
John Starks | Staff Photographer
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Duane Gigeous sees the similarities in the boys he raised.
As he watched his 15-year-old freshman son, Henry, start his first varsity game for Jacobs High School on Wednesday at rival Dundee-Crown, memories of his late stepson, Nick Adenhart, were apparent every time Henry threw a pitch.
Adenhart died in a hit-and-run auto accident on April 9, hours after the 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher threw 6 scoreless innings and struck out six against the Oakland A's.
Adenhart pitched right-handed. So does Gigeous. Adenhart stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 200 pounds. Gigeous, a still-growing three-sport athlete, has sprouted up two inches since basketball season started. He now stands 6-2 and weighs 185. They even throw similarly, which makes sense since younger siblings normally idolize their older brothers.
"Nick was Henry's hero," Duane Gigeous said. "Kids growing up playing baseball emulate their heroes, their batting stance, their pitching mechanics. Yeah, there are a lot of similarities. It's eerily similar.
"I enjoy watching Henry play. We've struggled watching the major leagues and things like that, but this is enjoyable. This is what it's about. There are a lot of fond memories of Nick at this age and younger. These are the good times."
Duane Gigeous and Adenhart's mother, Janet, married in 1991. Adenhart enjoyed the best of both worlds growing up. He lived with his mom and Duane in Williamsport, Md., while his father, Jim, lived just down the street. Everyone got along and supported one another in what Duane called "a great situation."
Henry also benefited from that loving family dynamic, so much so he calls Jim Adenhart, "Jimmy-Daddy," according to Duane. Every answer out of Henry's mouth begins respectfully with "Yes, sir" or "No, sir."
"He's just a great kid overall, loosey-goosey," Jacobs senior John Amann said of Henry. "He's the perfect kind of kid you want to hang out with. He's well-brought up."
Henry even shares the same bulldog mentality on the mound as his older brother. ("I guess in technical terms it's his half-brother," Duane said, "but the person you would offend most by saying half-brother would be Nick. The last names were different, but it didn't mean a thing to them.").
Wearing a Jacobs cap with "NA 34" written on the side in honor of Adenhart's jersey number with Los Angeles, Henry showed signs of good things to come in his first varsity start. In 52/3 innings he allowed 4 earned runs on 8 hits, struck out six and walked three. He left in the sixth inning, leading 3-2 with runners at first and third and eventually took a no-decision as Jacobs lost a wild game 8-7.
"I just try to go out there and pitch like (Adenhart) would want me to," Henry said. "Before the game I think of everything he gave to me and he taught me. I'm grateful for that. I feel blessed for 15 years to have a pitching mentor like that, and he was a very good one. I appreciate everything he did for me."
Of all the similarities between the two brothers, the most pronounced has nothing to do with baseball.
"The best part about both of them, and the thing I miss most about Nick, is that I don't miss Nick the ballplayer - I miss Nick the person," Duane Gigeous said. "I miss my friend, and Henry misses his brother. The ball playing was just extra. A lot of people, for good reason, focus on the ballplayer, but we miss the person and all the things that came with that. That's the hardest part.
"If we could have him back and he couldn't play baseball, I'd take him back in a minute. But they're both just great people, just good kids. I was blessed to have two really special kids, but that's a father. I'm allowed to be prejudiced, right?"
Yes, Duane. Yes, you are.