Towers was so much to so many
Former general manager enters Padres Hall of Fame Saturday
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
When Kevin Towers fell in love with something, he became obsessed.
And I mean that in nicest possible way.
Baseball, the Padres, Kelley, English bulldogs, wine, friends.
Kevin Towers never went into anything half-way.
He plunged . . . with all his heart as well as his energy. Kevin Towers was all in when it came to life.
The letter midway between "K" and "T" is P. Passionate. That was Kevin Towers. P is also for the Padres. And "K.T." loved the Padres.
"I don't know exactly how it lined up that I landed with the Padres," Towers once told me. "But I landed in the right place."
Towers was so many things to so many people. And when he met any person - and I mean any - there was a smile on his face.
I remember one late spring training night in Phoenix years ago. I was working very late on a project for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Towers was working late because he liked working late. Our paths crossed.
"Breakfast?" said Towers. "Sure," I responded.
And we headed to a Waffle House in not the greatest area of Phoenix. Towers immediately headed to the counter, sat down, struck up a conversation with both the waitress and two plumbers sitting to his left who had just returned from a late-night emergency.
Soon everyone was laughing.
That was the Towers I knew.
Fine wines and Waffle Houses. Passionate and caring. A great sense of humor and a temper. He had an ego. He also had the great ability to listen. He met everyone with a smile. And he was as good as his handshake. Always and forever.
My personal favorite encounter involved David Wells. It told you so many things about Towers, the man of his word, the evaluator of talent and the negotiator.
It was before the 2004 season and my wife and I were dining out. I looked across the room and saw Towers at a table with the famed pitcher, who happened to be a free agent. The following day, I called Towers to ask him about the meeting with Wells.
Towers was totally up front. He told me the Padres were close to signing Wells. But if word got out about the negotiations, the Yankees would jump in and offer the pitcher a contract the Padres couldn't match. Towers promised me if I didn't write about the meeting, he'd call me the second the deal was done.
I agreed. Why? Because I knew Towers to be a man of his word. Several nights later, Towers called. The Padres had signed Wells. He told me to write it, but not to quote him until the deal was officially announced the following day. I wrote it. The U-T had a scoop - that was quickly denied elsewhere.
Then the official announcement was made. And the terms were exactly what Towers told me they were.
That was another facet of Towers. Deadly honest.
Media members who asked Towers a question got a straight answer. And a smile. Towers was one of the few baseball executives who actually enjoyed the give-and-take with the media. He encouraged it.
"Writers see a lot of things I sometimes don't," Towers once told me.
I felt that hard to believe, because Towers had useable knowledge of so many things that became his passions.
Remember those plumbers. Towers started talking about the battle he and a friend of his had gotten into with a grease trap in Jacksonville, Oregon, when he was a teenager. The plumbers were in stitches. Vintage Towers.
Today we remember "K.T."
Towers posthumously becomes the 15th man inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame Saturday during services that begin at Petco Park shortly after 5 p.m. The ceremonies are a part of the 20th anniversary salute to the Padres 1998 National League championship team.
Some have called Towers the "architect" of that team. Others have called him "the glue."
Probably both terms are correct and more.
But the 1998 team is only a portion of Towers' legacy in San Diego.
He was a member of the Padres for half of his 56 years as a minor league player, a scout, the scouting director and the general manager - a post he filled from 1995 to 2009. And yes, no man served in that post longer . . . and had more success.
Four of Towers' 15 teams won National League West titles . . . with that one National League pennant.
Sadly, Kevin Towers passed away this past Jan. 30, following a 14-month fight against anaplastic thyroid cancer. He fought longer and harder than most his physicians felt possible. And he fought it out of the spotlight with only his closest family and friends knowing the true depth of his plight.
The room we call life isn't quite as happy - or loud - without Kevin Towers. Since his death, I've met so many people who crossed paths with "K.T." All had smiles on their faces.
And I remember those two plumbers at the Waffle House. One asked Towers what he did. Towers matter-of-factly replied, "I'm the general manager of the San Diego Padres."
As we departed the Waffle House, I told Kevin I didn't think the plumber believed him.
"He will soon enough," said Towers. "And soon enough counts."