CHICAGO -- Chris Bootcheck was lounging around the visitors' clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday morning when he overheard a few teammates talking about a Hancock. "Josh Hancock?" Bootcheck asked. That's when he learned that the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, who'd been a role model for him at Auburn, had perished early Sunday morning in an auto accident on a highway outside St. Louis.
"Shocking," Bootcheck, a middle reliever for the Angels, said, describing Hancock as a "fun guy, great teammate -- not a guy you could say anything bad about. "I called my head coach, Tom Slater, at Auburn, but he wasn't there. You hear something like that, you want to find out as much as you can. He was a great pitcher. It's got to be difficult for his family." Hancock, who turned 29 on April 11, pitched for Boston, Philadelphia and Cincinnati before joining the Cardinals in 2006. Hancock was at Auburn in 1997 when Bootcheck was a multisport star at La Porte (Ind.) High School. Hancock was drafted by Boston in the fifth round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft and signed as Bootcheck was embarking on his college career at Auburn, following Hancock's footsteps. "He was there when I was being recruited," Bootcheck said, explaining that Hancock factored into his decision to attend the school. "In the recruiting process, you were seeing guys picked high [in the draft] who were still going to Auburn. He was a high draft pick out of high school. "He was one of the first guys when I came south to show me hospitality. You go 600, 700 miles away from home, it's nice to have guys like that welcome you." Bootcheck, 28, was selected by the Angels in the first round of the 2000 draft out of Auburn, 20th overall, and began his professional career in 2001. "I didn't know the young man," manager Mike Scioscia said of Hancock, "but obviously it touches everybody when something like that happens in baseball. "All of us have lived through our share of tragedies in this game. I've lived through a number first-hand. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Cardinals organization."