Twins bench coach Mike Bell died Friday of cancer, the club announced. He was 46.
A highly respected member of one of baseball's most decorated families, Bell joined the Twins' staff as bench coach before the 2020 season following a 13-year tenure in the D-backs' organization. Bell helped guide the Twins to a second straight American League Central championship in his first year as manager Rocco Baldelli's right-hand man.
The Twins announced last month that Bell had been diagnosed with kidney cancer during the offseason and had undergone a surgical procedure in January. Bell was not with the Twins this spring and instead spent his final months alongside his family at home in Arizona.
"The Minnesota Twins are devastated by the loss of Mike Bell," read a statement from the team. "In his short time with our club, Mike had an indelibly positive impact -- not only on the quality of our team on the field, but most importantly upon everyone whom he met. Widely respected in our game, all who knew Mike, on and off the field, are better for the experience. The Twins join the baseball world in mourning Mike’s untimely passing; our thoughts and best wishes are with his wife, Kelly, his three children, Luke, Mikayla and Madeline, and the entire Bell family during this difficult time."
"To think he created the bonds in our organization that he did in such a short time, it's just incredible," Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. "He was so excited to get started this year. It's heartbreaking for us that he's not here. He's with us in spirit every single day."
In his short tenure with the Twins, Bell had been thrilled by the opportunity to return to the dugout following a decade in player development with the D-backs, during which he rose to the post of director of player development from 2011-16 and vice president of player development from 2017-19. Prior to his time as bench coach with the Twins last year, Bell had last been in the dugout in 2009, when he served as manager of Arizona's Class A affiliate in Visalia.
“Mike was truly beloved by everyone who knew him -- from coaches and players to colleagues and staff in Arizona and throughout our Minor League system," the D-backs wrote in a statement. "His loss leaves a huge hole in our hearts but his impact cannot be overstated and his legacy will not be forgotten. Mike brought authenticity and positive energy to every interaction he had, both on and off the field, and he was a true leader in the game of baseball that has embraced his family for three generations. Our deepest condolences are with Kelly, his children, Luke, Mikayla and Madeline, and the entire Bell family."
Bell's role as Twins bench coach was the first Major League dugout position of his career.
"It just really stirred my mind, my imagination, and the thought of being back in uniform and this close to the action was exciting," Bell said last February as he adjusted to his new role.
It wasn't just Bell's player development acumen that the Twins prized on their staff; it was also his ability to connect with and care for people, something that was an asset for so long in developing the careers of young ballplayers coming up in the Arizona organization. That's part of what stood out to the Twins in the interview process and what manager Rocco Baldelli said helped him excel in his role as bench coach.
"He brought out the best in people," Baldelli said. "People were very comfortable around him because people knew he genuinely cared about them. That’s when people genuinely open up back to you. And Mike had that.
"We all need people in our lives like Mike Bell, an amazing, amazing, amazing, lovely, thoughtful, beautiful human being, and we’re going to miss him," he added.
A Cincinnati native, Bell was selected by the Rangers in the first round of the 1993 MLB Draft and spent a lengthy Minor League career from 1993-2005 in the Rangers, Mets, Reds, Rockies, D-backs, White Sox and Cardinals organizations. He briefly appeared in the Majors for a 19-game stint in 2000 with the Reds.
Considering his wealth of experience in player development and his newfound role on the Twins' coaching staff, Bell had wondered if his coaching path might have led one day to following in his father's and brother's footsteps as a Major League manager.
"I feel I’ve got a lot to learn. Anybody in this position would enjoy that opportunity," Bell said last September. "It’s like when I was farm director, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to enjoy those times, and that’s how I feel now. I don’t feel -- I don’t have this sense of urgency that something like that has got to happen quick. Maybe 20 or 25 years, when my coaching career or my baseball career is all said and done, if I’m never a manager, I’m going to look back with what I’ve done to this point and be really happy and proud and thankful for all the teammates and coaches I’ve been around in organizations and be very grateful for it."
Bell's father, Buddy, spent 27 years in MLB as a player and manager and remains a vice president and senior adviser to the general manager for the Reds. His brother, David, has managed the Reds since the 2019 season. The family lineage in MLB runs all the way back to his grandfather, Gus, who played 15 seasons in the big leagues, including nine with Cincinnati.
"Our Reds family is overwhelmed with sadness for the Bells as they mourn the loss of Mike,” said Reds chief executive officer Bob Castellini in a statement. “This great baseball family blessed thousands of people over the 70 years it has devoted to our game. We are honored that Mike, like his grandfather Gus, his father Buddy, and brother David, wore a Reds uniform. Our hearts and support go out to Buddy, David and their families.”