Detroit — They knew something had happened when general manager Al Avila was in the clubhouse after the 4-3 loss to the Twins on Monday.
Avila made the grave announcement that Chace Numata, a catcher at Double-A Erie, had died Monday from injuries suffered in a skateboard accident.
"I don't really have words," said catcher Jake Rogers, Numata's teammate for more than a month earlier this season. "He was a beautiful person, inside and out. Just feel for his family. I'm praying for them and thinking about them.
"He brought life to everyone around him. It's tough. All I can do is keep his family in my heart. It's unbelievable. Things can happen so fast."
Since the accident last Friday morning, Rogers had written "Numi" on his cap. He said it will remain there the rest of the season.
"He's going to be with me," Rogers said. "He was an unbelievable baseball player. Having him back there made me want to work even harder because I could feel him clipping on my heels."
Numata, a native of Pearl City, Hawaii, was 27.
"He was an all-time guy," said reliever Bryan Garcia, who pitched a scoreless inning in his major league debut Monday, having already learned that Numata had died. "I never met anybody who didn't like him. That's really all I have to say. I want to respect his family.
"He was a good guy. Just horrible news."
Some of the Tigers relief pitchers had already found out about Numata during the game. They were watching the Fox Sports Detroit feed on the monitors in the bullpen.
"I had just donated to his Go Fund Me page," said reliever John Schreiber. "I was trying to keep my hopes and prayers up the whole time. He was just an awesome guy to be around.
"He brought a lot of energy to the ballpark, he was nice to everybody. He's somebody I will never forget."
The Tigers released this statement:
“The Detroit Tigers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Chace Numata. Though this was his first year with our organization, Chace was beloved by many from our Major League club through all levels of our player development system. He had an engaging personality that quickly established him as a leader on and off the field, and his presence will be forever remembered in our organization and beyond. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, teammates and coaches.”
According to the Erie News, Numata was found injured on a street in downtown Erie, Pa., on Friday, and police said it was a skateboarding accident. Surveillance cameras on the street showed Numata skating down East Fourth Street. No vehicles were involved in the accident.
“The Erie SeaWolves are heartbroken and deeply saddened by the passing of Chace Numata," SeaWolves owner Fernando Aguirre said in a statement. "Chace was a leader, an outstanding teammate, a friend to many, and his personality was positive and infectious. He made everyone he met feel welcome, and he had a very positive impact throughout the SeaWolves organization and the Erie community. We extend our sympathies to the Numata Ohana and have them in our thoughts and prayers. RIP Chace.”
Numata was in his 10th minor league season and his first with the Tigers. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 14th round out of Pearl City High School in 2010. He also spent time in the New York Yankees' organization.
"It's just a terrible thing," said Tigers reliever Matt Hall. "He's one of the better dudes I've ever met and I was lucky to have been able to play with him. I can't tell you a better person on this planet."
The Tigers signed Numata as a minor league free agent on Nov. 9, 2018.
“Chace was blessed with the opportunity to professionally play the sport he loved for the Phillies, Yankees, and Tigers organizations for over 10 seasons,” the Numata family said in a statement. “Everyone who was around Chace knew there was never a stranger in the room when he was there. It didn’t matter if you were a professional athlete or young child, he made sure to make everyone feel comfortable and welcomed. His smile was contagious, unrelenting, and never ending, while his personality could light up any environment he would be in.”