Tragedy hits MLB family hard
Personnel around league saddened by Hancock's death
From a former college teammate to players and managers who had never known him, to players who saw him pitch just Saturday, Josh Hancock's unexpected death Sunday sent shockwaves throughout Major League ballparks.
Detroit pitcher Todd Jones: "You feel bad for the Cardinals because they've been through it before with [Darryl Kile], but they know how to handle things like that," said Jones, who was involved in a four-player trade that sent Jones to the Phillies and Hancock to the Reds in 2004. "It will take a couple weeks to get over the fact that one of your guys passed away. Not sent down, I mean he's passed away."
The Cardinals need to find something positive from the tragedy, Jones said.
"Maybe this will help them re-focus," Jones said, "and maybe this can be a little diversion from how bad the team was playing and being able to get away from dealing with Josh and going back to baseball. This thing can be turned into something positive rather than letting it spiral down."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland: "They're just devastated," said Leyland, who talked to Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on Sunday. "I mean, after the poor thing with Darryl Kile, I mean this is just a heartbreaking story. I didn't get any detail. I called Tony and Walt Jocketty both and they're both just beside themselves."
Boston catcher Jason Varitek: "He did a great job for us," Varitek said of his former Red Sox teammate. "Baseball stuff doesn't even matter right now. We have to reach out to his family and everybody who was close to him.
"He had a great start for us and kind of got himself going and then we ended up trading him that winter," Varitek said. "But he did a phenomenal job and he was a huge part of St. Louis' success last year."
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis: "It was kind of shocking when I found out today," said Youkilis, who played with Hancock in the Minor Leagues and Arizona Fall League. "It was really tough, just more of a shock. I'm still shocked right now. It's just a sad story. It hasn't hit home yet. To all of his family and his friends out there, you just have to say a prayer for them and hope they handle it all right. The St. Louis Cardinals lost a good pitcher today.
"He always had good stuff," Youkilis said. "He was like an ace in the Minor Leagues. Josh was just one of those guys out there who just loved playing ball. He loved pitching and loved playing. He just battled. He was one of those guys who battled, he had a problem in Cincinnati and went over to St. Louis and the greatest thing is he won a World Series before he died."
Twins starter Ramon Ortiz: "He was a great teammate and a good guy, too," said Ortiz, who was Hancock's teammate in 2005 with Cincinnati. "I feel sad when I see that on the TV. It's very hard, especially for the family."
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen: "When you wake up in the morning and one of your players is missing, it's not easy to recover. No matter who dies in baseball or the way he dies, he's a kid, 20-something years old, and it shows you something. You are not invincible.
"I told my kids and my players, enjoy your life and what you are doing because you never know what is going to happen next. I feel for Tony La Russa and the Cardinals organization. They lost one pitcher [Darryl Kile] a couple years ago, and now this."
Cincinnati pitcher David Weathers: "When I found out this morning, it was just, 'Man, 29 years old.' The kid's got his whole life ahead of him, and for this to happen. ... Me and my wife were in St. Louis with my kids and we talked to him for about 30 minutes. We ran into him in the mall and just sat down and had a great conversation, and that's the thing she and I were talking about this morning. Just, 'Wow.' It is really tragic. My heart goes out to his family. The last thing you want is a phone call that your son's passed away. Just a tough day. And you can't get it out of your mind. Every time I see his picture up there, it's like it's not even real. It's so similar to Darryl Kile. I mean, the same teams were playing and all that. It's tough.
"Obviously, when he was driving his car last night, he wasn't expecting that, and like I said this morning, one thing I always try to prepare my life for is you never know when that day's coming. You [have] got to be ready for it. The people left behind are never prepared for it. It's just heart-breaking, it really is."
Cincinnati outfielder Adam Dunn: "You can't put it into words. Whether it's a guy you've never run across or a guy you used to play with, regardless of who it is, it's sad."
Florida pitcher Wes Obermueller: "I've known him a little bit, and I played with him for about a month because I went home with shoulder tendinitis. After playing with him, when I saw him with the Cardinals, whenever we crossed paths, I'd say hi. He was real nice to me. When I was with Milwaukee, he was called up with the Cardinals at the time. This makes you sick to your stomach and sick for his family. He was a good kid and had good talent."
San Francisco's Rich Aurilia: "I was just glad to see him do so well last year. The Reds released him before we even got to camp. He had a really good year and won the World Series. I was happy to see that success.
"You always think something like that won't happen to me. But it happens to everybody. Unfortunately, it's always magnified when it happens to somebody in the public eye. It happens to people every day. Sometimes, it's a wakeup call."
Kansas City pitcher Brandon Duckworth: "One of the guys was saying that a guy from St. Louis passed away, a reliever. I said to myself, 'Please don't tell me it was Josh.' And he said that's who it was."
Duckworth and Hancock played on the Phillies together in 2003, and also in Venezuela in winter ball.
"It's definitely shocking," Duckworth said. "You never think of that. It goes to show how you sometimes take things for granted. Driving down the road, you don't think, 'This could be my last breath.' It's a sad day."
Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez: "It's devastating. I played with Josh in a couple levels in the Minor Leagues and even the big leagues with the Red Sox, and it's just a shock. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. I don't even have words to describe the feeling I have. It's shock and devastation, it's sad."
Dave Jauss, field coordinator with Boston when Hancock was a Minor Leaguer: "He had a tough upbringing. He overcame some unusual circumstances. He was a good player, a good guy to be around, a good clubhouse guy and a teammate. A fun lover, a baseball junkie. I saw him in the spring and he was really happy, coming off the high of the World Series, having a good Spring Training and knowing he had the club made. He found peace with things."
Oakland pitcher Alan Embree: "I played with him in Boston, and in a couple of spring camps. He was a good guy, always in a good mood. He was fun to be around. My heart goes out to his family. I know how tough it can be. I was in San Diego with Phil Nevin and he knew Darryl Kile real well. Your heart goes out to the Cardinals organization. That's a class organization who got hit hard the last couple years."
Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson: Hancock was Hudson's college teammate at Auburn. They played on the '97 team, when Hudson was a senior and the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, and Hancock was a freshman. Hudson's wife had called with the news about his grandmother dying before he got word about Hancock.
"We only played together one year," Hudson said. "But we would see each other in the offseason. There is a good alumni program at Auburn. Everybody who played gets together, goes to games, tailgates, spends time hanging out. I saw [Hancock] every offseason. He will be missed."
New York Mets pitcher Billy Wagner: "You couldn't be more happy about him getting to the big leagues because he's such a humble, hard worker. And then to hear this -- I don't know all the specifics. It's tough. You really hate that. He was such a great kid. He was always a hard worker. He was just a good kid."
Angels reliever Chris Bootcheck: "I called my head coach, Tom Slater, at Auburn, but he wasn't there. You hear something like that, you want to find out as much as you can. He was a great pitcher. It's got to be difficult for his family."
Hancock was at Auburn in '97 when Bootcheck was a multi-sport star at La Porte, Ind., High School.
"He was there when I was being recruited," Bootcheck said. "He was one of the first guys when I came south to show me hospitality. You go 600, 700 miles away from home, it's nice to have guys like that welcome you."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia: "I didn't know the young man, but obviously, it touches everybody when something like that happens in baseball. All of us have lived through our share of tragedies in this game. I've lived through a number first-hand. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and the Cardinal organization."
San Diego manager Bud Black: "It's just devastating. It's devastating obviously to the Cardinals family, but I think all of us in the baseball family are saddened that one of us, especially somebody so young, died so tragically. It's very sad."
New York Yankees manager Joe Torre: "You think back to Cory Lidle last year and his life was taken away so suddenly. It's a tragic thing. The Cardinals have had their share of this type of thing. It is sad. There are no other words to describe it."
Cubs catcher Michael Barrett: "This is very tough day for all of us. He was a guy I had a tremendous amount of respect for. I loved the way he went about his business on the mound. He had tremendous mound presence and poise. He was a true professional. I never had a chance to meet him -- I wish I had. It's real tough for all of us. My heart goes out to his family.
"My family was just here, and the thought of what his family might be going through is really tough. It's something hard to deal with and our hearts and prayers go out to the Hancock family and to his teammates."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. Reporters Ian Browne, Jim Molony, Kelly Thesier, Scott Merkin, Joe Frisaro, Barry Bloom, Ken Gurnick, Jim Street, Alyson Footer, Lyle Spencer, Bryan Hoch and others contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.