Dog gone it, we already miss Kevin Towers.
That was the prevalent feeling from those saying goodbye to Towers on Sunday. Towers, the Padres’ general manager for 14 years who passed away recently from cancer at age 56, was celebrated in a nearly three-hour memorial service at Petco Park.
But his legacy lives on with Freedom Dogs and more about that below.
More than 20 speakers illustrated Towers’ passion for others. Towers, a Leucadia resident, always took an interest in everyone, regardless of one’s position. From the Padres president to a Padres usher, Towers treated everyone the same.
Theo Epstein relayed just that, and yep he’s the same guy to bring world championships to two title-starved cities. Before directing the Boston Red Sox to two World Series and breaking the 108-year curse for the Chicago Cubs as the team president, Epstein was a Padre.
Although as a 21-year-old intern in the public relations department, Epstein was a puny Padre.
“I was just a peon,” Epstein said. “But nobody was a peon to KT.”
Towers, who seldom agreed with a barkeep’s last call, took a liking to Epstein. Part of the reason was Epstein’s status as a college kid living large in San Diego. While the spirited Towers was happily married to Kelley, the love of his life, he relished hearing of Epstein’s weekend exploits in Pacific Beach.
“We would sit down in his office on Monday morning and go over them in fine detail,” Epstein said with a hearty laugh.
It was no joke that in Epstein, Towers saw potential. Towers hijacked Epstein from the PR staff and got him into baseball operations. That sounds flashy, but it meant Epstein worked the radar gun behind home plate at Qualcomm Stadium.
Still it was an opportunity that Towers offered, Epstein seized and that’s why Epstein will never buy a drink in Boston or Chicago again.
Imagine if Towers’ reading of a green Epstein was amiss? Maybe the Red Sox and Cubs are still seeking those elusive rings.
Towers’ way with players and how he constructed a squad was just as keen. He directed the Padres to the 1998 World Series and four NL West titles. Without that run to the World Series, maybe Petco Park isn’t built with the taxpayers’ help.
But Towers, who once pitched at MiraCosta College, would be just as interested in erecting a doghouse than a ballpark. Towers’ affection for dogs, especially his friendly English bulldogs, was legendary.
Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, told the story of sharing a bed with Arlo, one of Towers’ bulldogs. Cashman said after a few beverages with the Towers one night, he asked to remain at their house.
No problem, but Cashman would have a bedmate in Arlo.
Cashman shrugged, crashed and woke up next to a puddle in the sheets. It came courtesy of Arlo, but it was too rich a story for the rest of the baseball world not to hear.
When the tale made the rounds, it was Cashman who couldn’t hold his liquor and had wet the bed. Man, that yarn wagged Towers’ tail when he told it.
And few things made the patriotic Towers happier than helping U.S. military personnel. That’s why on his memorial program was a request to donate to Freedom Dogs.
Freedom Dogs works with Camp Pendleton Marines, pairing service animals with men and women returning from combat. The dogs become a critical part of the Marines’ rehabilitation, aiding in the recovery from post-traumatic stress.
“When Kevin heard about Freedom Dogs it was something he wanted to be a part of,” Kelley said. “It was a way for him to help our veterans and he always had a love for animals.”
Freedom Dogs held its signature event at the Del Mar Country Club on Thursday, with Towers’ legacy saluted by a roomful of appreciative Marines.
How Towers loved America, baseball and dogs and is there a sweeter triple play? Now imagine the smile on Towers’ tanned face if you toast him by donating at www.freedomdogs.org.
Contact Jay Paris at email@example.com. Follow him @jparis_sports
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports