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Towers revered as friend, mentor to many

Life of former Padres, D-backs GM celebrated at Petco Park ceremony
Special to MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- A collection of the lives touched by Kevin Towers assembled on a cloudless Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of the former player, scout and general manager.

And what a collection it was.

SAN DIEGO -- A collection of the lives touched by Kevin Towers assembled on a cloudless Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of the former player, scout and general manager.

And what a collection it was.

Hundreds of current and former players, scouts, managers and front-office executives who worked with Towers gathered on the Petco Park infield and listened as stories and memories were shared by a variety of speakers over a two-hour-plus ceremony.

Towers, who spent 15 seasons as the Padres' general manager and five seasons as the general manager of the D-backs, died at the age of 56 on Jan. 30 after battling a rare form of thyroid cancer for over a year.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy, Rockies manager Bud Black, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman and Reds president of baseball of operations Walt Jocketty made up a sampling of people who spoke at the ceremony.

All spoke in high regard of Towers' widow, Kelley, who helped put on the celebration of life.

"He didn't care if you were the president of the team or an intern, the star of the team or a 'clubbie,' if you were a national writer or some backup writer for the local paper, he would treat you like an equal," said Epstein, who worked under Towers -- known by K.T. in the baseball community -- in the Padres' front office before becoming general manager of the Red Sox.

Guest after guest took to the microphone to share countless stories of Towers' travels, from trade talks, to long nights at the Winter Meetings, to his ingratiating personality that made him one of the league's most-popular executives.

"This man did so much for me," said Bochy, who managed the Padres under Towers for 12 seasons. "He really did so much for my family."

Video: Bruce Bochy on the passing of Kevin Towers

Bochy was one of three managers to work under Towers while he was a general manager. The other two -- Black and Kirk Gibson -- addressed the crowd as well.

"I think the three of us can relate to the competitiveness Kevin had," Black said. "… The competitor is something I'll always remember."

Epstein wasn't the only executive who credited Towers for helping launch their career.

"He was like my college buddy, my sponsor," Cashman said. "He indoctrinated me to everybody that's here today."

Former Padres president Larry Lucchino hired Towers to become the Padres' general manager in 1995, and in '98 the team made its second-ever World Series appearance. That trip to the World Series has been credited as an instrumental facet in the eventual construction of Petco Park.

Video: Jocketty remembers Towers as a battler

Towers helped guide his teams to five National League West titles -- four with the Padres and one with the D-backs.

"Hiring Kevin Towers at age 33 as general manager of the Padres proved to be on the best personnel decisions of my entire career," said Lucchino, also a former president and CEO of the Orioles and Red Sox.

Padres vice president and assistant general manager Fred Uhlman, Jr., along with player agent and one of Towers' closest friend, Barry Axelrod, also took the podium to speak. Padres chairman Ron Fowler and managing partner Peter Seidler provided welcoming remarks for the ceremony and Padres broadcasters and former players Mark Grant and Mark Sweeney emceed the event.

"I tried to think about his greatest baseball accomplishment: Maybe 1,000 Padres wins as a general manager, maybe crafting and putting together that 1998 team," Axelrod said. "But what I came up with is that I never, ever heard anybody say anything bad about Kevin Towers in 35 years of friendship."

Video: D-backs broadcaster Ferrin on loss of Towers

Naturally, Hoffman closed out the event with his remarks. An assortment of people regarded as Towers' "Foxhole Guys" also spoke during the ceremony.

"He made people better around him," said former Padre and current Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin, one of Towers' "Foxhole Guys". "… I'll miss everything about our relationship."

The plethora of guests filed into seats lined up between first and second base at Petco as songs from Towers' favorite musicians and groups, including The Beatles, Neil Young and the Grateful Dead, played over the stadium speakers.

The ceremony, which was open to the public, concluded with a choir performance from Eddie Baltrip and Fulfillment.

Ryan Posner is a contributor to MLB.com based in San Diego.

San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks