06/23/2002 9:11 pm ET
Jeff Bagwell remembers his good friend, Darryl Kile
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell decided to speak publicly about his tremendous sadness because he wants the world to know that he loved Darryl Kile.
Too grief-stricken to speak of his friend's death a day earlier, Bagwell addressed the media following the Astros' 10-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. The pain on Bagwell's face spoke volumes as he quietly and eloquently put into words the overwhelming loss that has left him, along with legions of baseball people throughout the league, devastated.
Kile and Bagwell formed a bond 11 years ago during Spring Training in 1991 as two minor league non-roster invitees trying to play their way onto the Astros' big league club. As it turned out, both made the team, and when camp broke, they found themselves side by side on the team bus, heading to the airport to catch a charter flight.
Still, as the bus approached their minor league hotel on Boggy Creek Road in Kissimmee, the two somewhat paranoid rookies nervously glanced at each other and half-joked that the bus would probably stop to drop them off and leave them behind. It was only when the bus sped by the minor league headquarters and continued on that the two let out a collective sigh of relief.
"We were sitting next to each other in probably the worst-looking clothes ever," he recalled. "We drove by (the hotel) and we said 'Hey, I guess they're going to take us to Houston.'"
Each made his big league debut a couple of days later on Opening Day in Cincinnati. For the next seven years, the two would become as close as brothers and would remain so for the remainder of Kile's life, long after the pitcher had departed Houston via free agency after the 1997 season.
"The memories that I have, the memories that I've shared with other people ... I loved Darryl Kile," Bagwell said. "I can't believe this is happening."
Unfortunately, another memory of Kile -- this one of the moment when Bagwell found out his friend had been found dead in his Chicago hotel room -- will also be one he won't soon forget.
Bagwell was at home, in his daughter's bedroom, around two in the afternoon on Saturday when Cubs outfielder Moises Alou called.
"I said 'Mo, why are you calling? You've got a game to play,'" Bagwell said. "He told me that the game was cancelled, that D.K. died. I said 'What are you talking about?' He said 'D.K. died.'" I didn't know what to do. It's something that comes as a disbelief. Unfortunately, it was true."
Bagwell had spoken with Kile only five days earlier.
"We talked about we both stunk and how we were going to get out of it," he recalled. "I'd do anything to have that back right now."
The Astros' first baseman forged a close relationship with the entire Kile family over the years and is devastated for the loss that Kile's widow, Flynn, and three children have endured. Bagwell, along with teammates Craig Biggio and Brad Ausmus -- all of whom played with Kile on the 1997 Astros club that clinched their first of four NL Central division titles, will attend Kile's funeral.
"I feel so bad for Flynn and the kids," he said. "I feel like we have to be there for them.
"I just can't believe that this happened. I've been searching for answers. The only reason I feel like I have to talk to you guys (media) is for his family and for people around baseball to know how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. That's the only reason why I feel like this is necessary. I say that this goes far beyond baseball, and it does, but I know that I would never have the chance to meet Darryl if it wasn't for baseball.
"I'm a better person because I met Darryl Kile."
Alyson Footer covers the Astros for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.