Towers' life celebrated at Petco ceremony
'Kevin Towers was loved throughout baseball,' Lucchino says of former Padres GM
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
Compassionate. Loyal. Friendship. Moxie. Candid. Soulful. Fun-loving. Brilliant. Kind. Passionate. Integrity. Trustworthy. Devoted. Love. Class.
Those were just a sample of the words used by 22 speakers Sunday afternoon at Petco Park to describe Kevin Towers during the "Celebration of Life" held for the Padres' former general manager.
"My friend, my boss, my mentor ... a great evaluator, an eager listener, a better teacher and a loyal friend," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said to describe Towers.
"There was never such a thing as a 'nobody' to Kevin Towers. That was K.T.'s way. No matter who you were, he greeted you with respect and kindness. I was 21 and fresh out of college when K.T. invited me into his circle."
Stories of Towers' achievements and devotion were mixed with the humorous asides that made Towers a beloved figure throughout baseball.
Managers and executives flew in from Spring Training sites in Florida and Arizona to speak about Towers. They included Bruce Bochy and Bud Black, who were Padres managers during Towers' run as general manager, and Kirk Gibson, who managed Arizona when Towers was the GM of the D-backs.
"We come together to celebrate this man," said former Padres president Larry Lucchino, who promoted the then 33-year-old Towers from scouting director to general manager of the Padres in 1995. "We hope to tell you about the joy K.T. brought to baseball and anyone he met."
Lucchino remembered meeting Towers in 1995 after John Moores and Lucchino had purchased the Padres. One of Lucchino's first tasks was to find a general manager. One of the people he asked to help in the search was Towers.
"We had interviewed five or six men," said Lucchino. "We took a walk one day and the subject of the next general manager came up. I said 'I've chosen you.' He responded, 'No way.'"
Towers served as the general manager of the Padres for 15 seasons, the longest tenure of a general manager in Padres history. He spent a total of 28 seasons in the Padres organization as a player, a Minor League pitching coach, a scout, the scouting director and general manager. He later spent four seasons as the general manager of the D-backs and served with the Yankees and Reds as a special assistant.
As general manager of the Padres, Towers built teams that won four National League West titles and one of two NL championships in Padres history. He also won a NL West title as general manager of the D-backs.
Towers, who was known affectionately as K.T. throughout baseball, died Jan. 30 after a 15-month battle with anaplastic thyroid cancer.
"Even when he was fighting cancer, he loved talking about baseball," said Black.
"He told me many times he was going to beat cancer and he put up a great fight," said Walt Jocketty, who was general manager of the Cardinals when Towers was with the Padres and later became Towers' boss in Cincinnati.
In his opening remarks, Padres chief executive officer Ron Fowler detailed Towers' importance to the Padres, San Diego and the construction of Petco Park.
"I don't know if this place would have been built without 1998 and Kevin Towers," Fowler said of the Padres' NL championship season.
Lucchino also spoke to that subject.
"He helped change baseball and San Diego forever," said Lucchino. "After the season ended, Towers was on corners holding up the 'Vote Yes on C' signs." Passage of Proposition C in 1998 was the measure that approved the construction of Petco Park.
Lucchino talked about Kevin and wife Kelley Towers' love of English bulldogs.
"Overall, the characters of the English bulldog could be found in Kevin Towers," said Lucchino.
"Kevin Towers was loved throughout baseball. More importantly, he was a good guy."
Yankees GM Brian Cashman added, "Kevin Towers taught us how to live life."