Updated at noon on Jan. 30, 2018.
Kevin Towers, the former Padres general manager who led the club to the World Series and several National League titles, died Tuesday morning after a bout with cancer. He was 56.
Towers, who was born on Nov. 11, 1961, in Medford, Oregon, started his college baseball career in 1979 at MiraCosta College before transferring to Brigham Young. He was drafted by the Padres in 1982 and pitched for their farm team until 1989 when an injury sidelined his career. Towers was then hired as a scout for the club in 1990. He was briefly a regional and national crosschecker for the Cincinnati Reds before returning in 1993 as a scouting director for the Padres, a position he held until 1995 when he was promoted to general manager. At 33, he was one of the youngest general managers in Major League Baseball.
“We are profoundly saddened by the loss of Kevin Towers, who passed away early this morning after a courageous battle with cancer,” Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler and general partner Peter Seidler said in a joint statement. “Kevin spent nearly thirty years in the Padres organization as a player, scout, and front office executive. He led our Club with strength, conviction and unwavering determination, and was beloved by all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, especially his wonderful wife, Kelley.”
Towers was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer in 2016 but his condition was not made public until Game 4 of the World Series in October when his name was displayed on a placard in a Stand up to Cancer spot.
During his tenure, Towers helped the Padres land Greg Vaughn, Kevin Brown, Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell, among others. The Padres’ run at the World Series in 1998 was credited for voters approving funding for Petco Park, which opened in 2004.
After his tenure as GM with the Padres ended in 2009, Towers worked as a West Coast scout for the New York Yankees before succeeding Jerry Dipoto as GM for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and helped turned the team around. The D-backs had 64 wins in 2010 and rebounded with 94 wins in 2011. He last worked for the D-backs in 2014.
“Kevin Towers devoted his life to baseball. After playing in the minors and coaching, Kevin spent nearly 20 years as a general manager who was known for great talent evaluation,” baseball commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. said in a statement. “Kevin built four National League West Championship teams in San Diego, including the 1998 team that went to the World Series. He also won the NL West Championship as General Manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In addition to the successful teams he led, Kevin is remembered for being one of the most well-liked individuals in our game whose love of life and baseball will be missed.”
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