2002-06-29 / Sports

Baseball Moves On But Kile Will Not Be Forgotten

By Elio Velez

Baseball Moves On But
Kile Will Not Be Forgotten
By Elio Velez

Darryl Kile was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in the 2000 National League Championship against the N.Y. Mets. As he was sitting on the bench in Game 5 in an eventual 7-0 Cardinals loss, he watched Rick Ankiel lose all of his control on the mound.

The sellout crowd taunted Ankiel and when the inning was over, the first man in the Cardinal dugout to give him words of encouragement was Darryl Kile. Kile encouraged Ankiel to keep his head up, to fight the troubles and know that Rick would always have a friend in Kile.

Darryl Kile died in a hotel room, alone, in Chicago last Saturday. But he wasn’t a solitary figure who kept to himself. Whatever city he was in, he touched teammates and many other people.

He is remembered as a hard worker in Houston, where he pitched a no-hitter and made All Star teams. He went to Colorado in 1998 and signed a huge money contract to take the impossible task of throwing his great curve in an altitude that is unforgiving. He was never successful, going 13-17 and 8-13 in two seasons, but he did not complain about the Coors Field surroundings. He offered no excuses and took the blame for his pitching woes. He was a competitor and a man of character. Those qualities, not his won-loss record, impressed his teammates.

When he moved to the Cardinals in 2000, Kile quickly impressed his teammates again. Every fifth day, he would go to the mound with a bulldog mentality. Even if he didn’t have the good stuff in a particular day, he would fight it off and give the Cards a chance. He was your friend, confidant and a manager’s dream.

The qualities that Kile possessed will never be forgotten. The Mets’ Pedro Astacio was in tears before he took the mound that night at Shea. When the game was canceled, Joe Buck of Fox Sports, whose father had just died, interviewed Cards manager Tony LaRussa after the Cubs-Cardinals game was canceled that Saturday. Both looked shaken as they talked about Kile. They lost a friend.

When Larry Walker of the Rockies heard the bad news, he was visibly shaken as he talked to the press. "I think you've heard what he was like, and it's all true," Walker said. "He was a great guy. He was a professional all the time. I hate when these things happen. It's not easy to deal with. It sucks, it really sucks."

This season, Kile was coming back from elbow surgery. Instead of rehabbing in the minor leagues, he decided to get healthy by pitching for the Cardinals. He wasn’t recovered fully from his injury. His teammates and the media knew that. But Kile was getting better, he went 7 innings and won in his last start and the Cardinals was in first place. They were going against their longtime rivals the Cubs this weekend in perfect summer weather. Times couldn’t be better but fate intervened.

It’s always hard to move on when someone that is loved is gone. A family that included his wife and three children must cope with his sudden loss. Teammates must feel that the games are insignificant as they cope with his loss while playing.

But once we grieve, we must move on and live life. When an old friend years ago was murdered senselessly, I was angry and cursed his tormentors. But in time, I remembered his good qualities and I hold it dear to my heart. That’s how I moved on. Tony LaRussa was asked on how the players must move on, "Treat the game like Darryl, This is a very, very tough-minded competitor, a conscientious teammate, a wonderful friend and family man. Be like Darryl." Amen.

Until next week, Peace.

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