06/22/2002 7:45 pm ET
Leach: Getting to know Kile
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Darryl Kile was a challenge. He wasn't a gregarious, chatty kind of guy around reporters. He didn't enjoy talking to reporters. He was who he was; I never saw him put on a fake face.
The more effort I made to get to know "DK," on days when he wasn't starting, the more he seemed to warm up. I do not claim to have known him; when it came to reporters, he was extremely private. But I came to respect him and (to begin to) understand him.
In my very short career as a reporter, Kile gave me perhaps the best example of the difference between how we view an athlete and what that person is really like. I interviewed him for our Father's Day section on June 10, and he was warm and forthcoming discussing his children. He was still a man of relatively few words, but he revealed something of himself.
There was a specific moment in that conversation when I really started to get Kile, to understand him, and to like him. One of the things he always said after a game -- with maddening frequency, actually -- was that his job is just to "take the ball every five days and give the team a chance to win." Win or lose, he was sure to say that at least once after every start.
During our conversation about fatherhood, I asked him whether he would want his kids to be pro athletes. And he used that same line.
"Hopefully, whatever they decide to do when they grow up, they do it hard, and they take the ball every five days," he said. "What I mean by that is, I hope they go after it and get what they want."
Almost instantly, I grew to like him. It's difficult to explain, how he went from a tough person to deal with to someone I was fond of. When he used one of his favorite lines, I started to get it. I now feel very fortunate that I was able to have that conversation with him.
There's still much I don't know about DK. My professional and personal interactions with him were limited. I know that he had a healthy and admirable attitude toward his kids. He wanted them to be happy with whatever they chose to do. It was clear that not only did love them, he liked them. And those are not the same thing.
I also got the impression that he was a terrific teammate. I once ran into him and some other Cardinals after a game in Montreal, and he was talking about how he'd have to have them all over for a barbecue at his new house. It was another moment of exposure to Darryl Kile as someone other than the guy who talked about "doing his job" every fifth night.
I can't claim to have been a friend, or even a close acquaintance of Kile's. I couldn't possibly write about what kind of person he was, because I don't know -- though I hope that the people who did know him will write and say just that. So I hurt for his friends and family more than anything.
But I do know that my first impressions of Kile were definitely not all that he was about. And I will always be thankful that I was able to learn that.
Matthew Leach covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.