06/22/2002 9:34 pm ET
Players, coaches remember Kile
By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In the game room of his home, Matt Galante has a framed box score of the no-hitter that Darryl Kile pitched for the Houston Astros against the New York Mets on Sept. 8, 1993. That's how close Galante was to Kile, the Cardinals' right-hander who died suddenly at 33 Saturday, sending shock waves through Major League Baseball.
"He was a great kid, he was like one of my kids," said Galante, who was an Astros coach when Kile played in Houston. "I'll never understand what life brings. I saw the news on television and didn't believe it at first. At 33, you think you'd have a long life to live. More important than his being a good pitcher was the fact he was a good person."
Galante, now a Mets coach, recalls Kile's kindness when Galante's son signed with St. Louis a few years back. Kile took the younger Galante under his wing by taking him to dinner a few times and leaving shoes in his locker.
"I was with him a long time and we would get together whenever we played against each other," Galante said. "He would give you the shirt off his back."
Galante's reaction of stunned sorrow symbolized the heartfelt feelings in all ballparks where games were being played Saturday. In Houston, the Astros lineup did not include Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio or Brad Ausmus. All were close friends of Kile. Flags at Minute Maid Park flew at half-staff and a moment of silence was observed. In Cincinnati, the Reds canceled batting practice on the field. In Milwaukee, the Brewers players who so chose met behind closed doors in the interview room at Miller Park to talk through their feelings.
Nobody could comprehend how a young and gifted professional athlete seemingly in the prime of his life could suddenly be gone.
Pittsburgh first base coach Tommy Sandt had the same job for Colorado in 1999 when Kile pitched for the Rockies.
"I'm shocked," Sandt said. "He's a 33-year-old player that you think is in good health and, all of a sudden, he's gone. He never once made an excuse that he shouldn't have signed there or that the curveball didn't break there. He went out and took the ball (every turn). He was a true professional."
The Kile tragedy, Sandt said, just shows how precious life is.
"I guess it just shows you how fast it can happen," Sandt said. "You have a professional baseball player in the prime of his life and now he is gone. It proves it can happen to anyone."
Philadelphia pitching coach Vern Ruhle was Kile's pitching coach in Houston, where Kile worked from 1991 to 1997.
"He was a leader on the team and he was a great community person," Ruhle said. "This is just horrifying and I don't know what to say. This is breathtaking to me. Hard to believe."
Detroit pitcher Jose Lima played with Kile in 1997 at Houston.
Lima described Kile as "a winner, a great guy, a great competitor." Lima said Kile was an advisor to him before Lima burst into prominence with the Astros.
"We think we are gods. ... but this could happen to you, to me, to anybody," Lima said.
Oakland outfielder John Mabry got to know Kile when the two were teammates with the Cardinals.
"I remember he was really generous," Mabry said. "And I remember how prepared he was. He lived to get people out. He would keep notes. He kept notes his whole career on how to get people out. Even in a simulated game, if he didn't hit his spots, he'd get mad."
Philadelphia outfielder Bobby Abreu, who played with Kile in Houston in 1996 and 1997, remembers how Kile made him feel welcome in the clubhouse.
"He would make a nice joke with me and make me feel part of the team," Abreu said. "He was friendly with everybody. He was so special."
Anaheim infielder Adam Kennedy, who played with Kile in St. Louis, remembers how Kile reached out to Rick Ankiel when Ankiel went through wildness episodes.
"When Rick Ankiel went through all his problems, Kile was pretty much his savior," Kennedy said.
Kennedy played against Kile last Tuesday when Kile made his last start.
"He was pitching, so he didn't talk," Kennedy said. "When a guy's pitching, you know not to talk to him."
Milwaukee's Jamey Wright, who was a teammate of Kile's in Colorado, echoed the thoughts about how Kile took the time to help young players.
"I followed that guy around like a puppy dog for the '98 and '99 seasons," Wright said. "He helped me more than anybody could. He was just a great person, a great friend."
Arizona ace Curt Schilling, who played with Kile in Houston, was among the many in Major League Baseball offering prayers to Kile's wife Flynn and the three young children.
"He's just, first and foremost, an unbelievable family man and husband and good friend," Schilling said. "My heart and prayers go out to Flynn and the kids and the Cardinals team and organization. It's just staggering."
Robert Falkoff covers the Royals for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.