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Saddened Rockies remember McGregor

Saddened Rockies remember McGregor

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WASHINGTON -- Dazed and saddened, the Rockies resolutely went back to work Tuesday night, turning to the familiarity of baseball to try and cope with the unexpected death of team president Keli S. McGregor.

"I guess shock is the word that describes it," said first baseman Todd Helton, the Rockies' longest tenured player. "A great man, I've known him 15 years and he's the last person, you'd think, that you'd be getting that call about. He kept himself in great shape, worked hard, a very compassionate man who loved this team and loved his family even more."

The 48-year-old McGregor, in his 17th year in the organization and his ninth as team president, was found dead Tuesday morning in his hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he was on a business trip with team chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort and executive vice president Greg Feasel.

The Rockies' clubhouse was closed to media during the daily pregame access period, and manager Jim Tracy met with his team to inform them of McGregor's death and to pray for McGregor, his wife and their four children.

"I'm stunned. I can't believe what has happened," Tracy said softly while sitting in the Rockies' dugout at Nationals Park. "I don't understand. I've told so many people in that clubhouse, I want to understand this, but I don't. I don't know what to say."

McGregor was a former football star at Colorado State University who played tight end in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks before retiring. The health-conscious McGregor often worked out at Coors Field with Rockies players and had spent much of the past year putting the finishing touches on the team's new Spring Training facility near Scottsdale, Ariz.

"It's hard-hitting because Keli put the organization first -- always," said hitting coach Don Baylor, who managed the Rockies for the first six seasons of their existence. "When he came in as a young guy, when the ownership brought him in, he was a football guy -- didn't understand what a 6-4-3 [double play] was or what ERA was. It was a big learning experience for him, but what a rising star that this guy would have been in the game."

Nationals right-hander Jason Marquis, a 16-game winner for the Rockies last season before signing as a free agent with Washington in December, was one of those players who came in frequent contact with McGregor in the Coors Field weight room.

"We had good conversations in the weight room. We were just talking baseball and the Rockies. My heart goes out to his family and the Rockies organization," Marquis said. "The loss is going to linger because he meant a lot to a lot of people in Colorado and Denver, and he has done some great things."

Baylor said Rockies players and staff would turn to their faith to try and deal with McGregor's passing. In-season grief is something Baylor has personal experience with. In 1978, Baylor was playing with the California Angels when teammate Lyman Bostock was shot and killed in Gary, Ind.

"It's difficult, it really is. ... We have a lot of Christian guys on this ballclub, guys that believe. Keli was a Christian man," Baylor said. "At 48 years old, you're still asking why. But it's not for us to say why; guys go out and play for him, the legacy of the organization is what you put on your back. You want to do exactly what Keli wanted to do and that's put this organization first."

Tracy's voice cracked as he tried to explain the impact McGregor had on him since he took over the managerial reins from Clint Hurdle last May 29.

"The values he possesses and the values he instills in other people, either by his words or his actions, it's unfortunate that a lot of people in baseball that aren't around the Rockies haven't had an opportunity to meet this guy," Tracy said. "Because if you haven't had a chance to meet him and get to know him and find out who he is and what he's all about, you've missed an unbelievable opportunity at meeting a great man. A very, very special man. I'm torn up."

There was no consideration given to postponing Tuesday night's scheduled game against the Washington Nationals, the second of four meetings in the Rockies' lone trip to the nation's capital this season, said Tracy and Nationals president Stan Kasten.

"I don't think that's what he would want, I really don't. I know that. I know him and that's not what he would want," said Tracy.

Added Kasten: "That's not really something that was considered. We decided on some kind of tribute, at least a moment of silence."

There was a moment of silence before the game during which a photo of McGregor was shown on the scoreboard and a list of his accomplishments was read.

Helton will miss the affable organizational guy who wasn't too big to go duck hunting or golfing with him. Baylor said it was difficult to imagine the Rockies without the unselfish leader who always put the team's needs before his own.

"The thing that I remember the most about Keli is that it was 'We," it was never 'I.' He's left a big void in our organization," Baylor said before heading off to his pregame work once the Rockies emerged from a disbelieving clubhouse.

"Knowing Keli," Baylor added, "he'd want us out there, he'd want us playing and he'd want us playing hard."

Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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