SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have spent the past three days toasting the 20th anniversary of their 1998 club -- a team that won 98 games, a National League pennant and is widely regarded as the best in franchise history. On Saturday, they bestowed a considerable honor on "the architect"
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have spent the past three days toasting the 20th anniversary of their 1998 club -- a team that won 98 games, a National League pennant and is widely regarded as the best in franchise history. On Saturday, they bestowed a considerable honor on "the architect" of that squad, late general manager Kevin Towers, who died in January.
Towers, who served as GM from 1995-2009 and presided over four of the franchise's five NL West titles, was posthumously inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame in a moving pregame ceremony Saturday night.
Towers' wife, Kelley, delivered the ceremonial first pitch after speeches from executive chairman Ron Fowler, radio broadcaster Ted Leitner and former Padres Trevor Hoffman and Wally Joyner. Kelley and Fowler unveiled a plaque honoring Towers, which will reside in the Padres Hall of Fame beyond left field at Petco Park.
"He was a great friend, a great competitor, he fought for success," said Joyner, who was dealt to the Padres in 1995 as one of the first major moves Towers made as GM. "He got the best out of you. It's rare to hear anyone praise a general manager that either released him or traded him. And I don't know of anybody in those two categories that doesn't think highly of Kevin Towers."
During his speech, Hoffman recounted the story of Towers entering a meeting during his time as general manager. An intern sat in the corner of the room, and Towers insisted that the intern join the group at the table, knowing that, as Hoffman recalled, "Everyone would be better off for it." That intern was Theo Epstein.
Hoffman later recounted Towers celebrating the 1998 pennant like he was "one of the boys."
"He truly enjoyed the fruits of his labor," Hoffman said. "I don't know what it's like to put together a ballclub. But to see it get to the World Series, he wasn't shy about his emotions, he wasn't shy about his feelings. He truly enjoyed that moment, and he earned it."
Approximately 20 members of that team were on hand Saturday night for pregame festivities. Each rode into the ballpark in the bed of a truck before lining up along the first-base line for a video tribute.
They donned 1998 throwback jerseys -- as did the current Padres for their game against the Cardinals. Those jerseys featured a patch on the left sleeve with the Towers' initials, along with those of Rob Picciolo, the franchise's longest-serving coach who also passed away in January. San Diego will continue to wear that patch on its throwback jerseys for the remainder of the year.
Towers is the 15th inductee into the Padres Hall of Fame, elected by the team's front office in collaboration with San Diego's chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He became the fourth executive among that storied group, joining Ray Kroc, Buzzie Bavasi and Jack McKeon.
At the podium, Fowler was quick to point out the meaning behind Towers being honored at Petco Park.
"The Padres have a lot to be thankful for in the success of Kevin's teams," Fowler said. "In many ways, as the architect of the 1998 ballclub, you could say that Kevin Towers helped get Petco Park built."
Before his career as general manager, Towers spent seven seasons as a pitcher in the Padres' Minor League system. He became a scout after his retirement -- and eventually became the club's director of scouting.
Following his career with the Padres, Towers spent parts of five seasons as GM of the D-backs, where he helped orchestrate yet another NL West title in 2011. He was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer in '16 and passed away on Jan. 30, at 56.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.