San Diego Padres minor leaguer Mike Sharperson, due to join the big-league club as a possible replacement for an injured player, died Sunday morning after a one-car crash.
Sharperson, an all-star for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1992, was on his way home when the accident occurred, said Jerry Royster, manager of the Class AAA Las Vegas Stars. Sharperson had been scheduled to fly to Montreal later in the day.
Nevada Highway Patrol trooper Steve Harney said Sharperson was southbound on Interstate 15 at about 2:45 a.m. when he apparently realized he missed his turn onto Interstate 215. A witness said Sharperson tried to make a right turn onto I-215, but he lost control in the rain and went into a dirt median, Harney said.
Sharperson was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected through the sun roof, Harney said. He was taken to University Medical Center and died on the operating table at 5:05 a.m.
Wearing a seat belt “might have made a difference,” Harney said at a news conference at Cashman Field, where Sunday’s Pacific Coast League game between Las Vegas and Edmonton was canceled.
Harney said there was no indication that alcohol was involved, but authorities routinely wait for an autopsy before making the final determination.
Sharperson, 34, had played with Toronto, Los Angeles and Atlanta in his big-league career. He signed with the Padres as a minor-league free agent Nov. 29.
“I was sick all day,” Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said. “I loved Mike Sharperson. I loved him and his family very dearly. He was a great guy to have on the team.”
Padres spokesman Roger Riley said from New York that Sharperson was told Saturday night to fly to Montreal. He wasn’t given a guarantee that he would be promoted, but the Padres wanted him there in case Gold Glove third baseman Ken Caminiti didn’t progress from a groin injury.
Caminiti hasn’t played since Monday and was hoping that rest and treatment would allow him to avoid going on the disabled list. However, the Padres said that if he isn’t ready for the Montreal series that begins Monday, he might be placed on the disabled list.
The switch-hitting Caminiti took batting practice before the Padres-Mets game Sunday at Shea Stadium and said he was OK from the left side but sore from the right side, so he will sit out again today and be evaluated on Tuesday, Riley said.
After playing in the minor leagues in 1994, Sharperson played briefly with the Braves last season.
Sharperson is survived by a 9-month old daughter, his mother and father, and a brother and sister. He lived in Lithonia, Ga., in the off-season.