Clint Hurdle (with an assist from Dave Kreiger) Reminds Us of the Strength of Keli McGregor

My Friend Keli

Friday was the 8th anniversary of Keli's passing. Still seems like yesterday to me. He added value to everyone he came in contact with. He impacted my life second only to my father. He was the brother I never had. I still talk with him. My life is better because our paths crossed and we took advantage of the time we had. I thank God for connecting us.
God bless all the McGregor's.
- Clint

By Dave Krieger, 
Sunday, April 25, 2010

The last time I saw Keli McGregor was in the Rockies clubhouse after their home opener a little more than two weeks ago.

Baseball was back, the Rocks had beaten the Padres 7-0 before a sellout crowd, and McGregor was a happy man. As I walked toward him from the back of the clubhouse, he gave me a mischievous grin.

"Is that shirt purple?" he asked.

The illusion of objectivity still being marginally important in my business, I try not to wear purple to the Rockies or maroon to the Avs. Still, I had to check.

"Maroon," I assured him. "Avs maroon."


McGregor was still grinning. "OK," he said. "Just checking."

Many baseball people knew the Rockies president better than I did, but not too many knew him longer. I was a Broncos beat writer in 1985 when they made him a fourth- round draft choice out of CSU. I covered his first and only training camp in Greeley. He didn't make an impact as a player - Dan Reeves cut him in the season's first month - and my only memory of him from that summer is that he was unfailingly polite.

In all the years since, whenever I saw him, he would ask about the news business. When the Rocky Mountain News was on its last legs, I saw him at a luncheon at Invesco Field. He sat down with me, wanting to know every detail.

Turnabout being fair play, I would ask him about the state of CSU athletics. He was dependably honest, glorying in the good times and suffering in the bad.

An imposing 6-feet-7, McGregor was as fit at 48 as he was at 23 that summer in Greeley. This was just one of the factors that made his sudden death last week in a hotel room in Salt Lake City so shocking to everybody who knew him.

He had many widely admired qualities, most of them detailed by family and friends at Sunday's heart-wrenching memorial service at Coors Field. But in pro sports, actual honesty is so rare and valuable, that's always the one that stood out to me.

It was not just a personal quality with McGregor. As the leader of the Rockies' management team, he helped make it an institutional quality at Coors Field. And it had a lot to do with the Rockies' renaissance.

I have never covered another management team as willing to own up to its mistakes as McGregor, general manager Dan O'Dowd and former manager Clint Hurdle. By applying the same standard of accountability to themselves that they demanded of their players, the same people that supervised failure were able to turn it into success.

"He gave me the understanding of integrity and honesty," Hurdle said of McGregor at Sunday's service.

"Sometimes honesty is difficult, sometimes honesty is painful and sometimes honesty is uncomfortable. Despite these temporary feelings of discomfort, we must make honesty the hallmark of all our relationships. If not, we invite needless suffering into our lives.

"Honesty has a beautiful and refreshing simplicity about it. No hidden meanings. No hidden agendas. As honesty and integrity characterize our lives there will be no need to manipulate others. And this is Keli McGregor - honesty and integrity from the time he woke up to the time he went to sleep."

I probably can't convey how unusual this viewpoint is in pro sports today. Spin is the accepted standard. I've covered people for years who have never admitted a mistake publicly. For several years there in the mid-aughts, admitting mistakes is pretty much all Rockies management did. It produced a humility that was true.

"There was no topic that was off limits," Hurdle said of his conversations with McGregor. "I tried to get him involved in baseball game strategy. Keli said he wasn't qualified. I looked him in the eye and said, 'Neither am I, but I'm the manager.' We laughed over that one quite frequently.

"We challenged each other to be uncommon. Not common men, but uncommon. To truly make a difference. To create separation. To not be like everybody else. To not accept mediocrity. OK is not good enough."

Of the many images that remain of McGregor, the one I hold in my mind's eye is his two-fisted, two-armed embrace of Hurdle after the Rockies won the National League pennant in 2007. All their tough times together were rewarded in that moment.

McGregor left a personal legacy that transcended sports, as the tearful tributes from family and friends demonstrated. But he also left a living professional legacy - a baseball club that turned failure into success by practicing his values.

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many Keli.

Now let's go make a difference today.
Love Clint

Tracy RingolsbyComment