October 2009

Stuck in elevator at Yankee Stadium, we survive

NEW YORK — I’m 57 years old and I’d never been stuck for even a minute in an elevator, until today. It happened in the press elevator at the new Yankee Stadium. Myself and six colleagues were on our way to the Twins off-day media conference this morning when the elevator hit a bump, bounced like it had struck an iceberg, and stopped dead just above the clubhouse level.

Three of us from MLB.com were in the group: myself, Kelly Thesier, the Twins beat writer, and Scott Merkin, who covers the White Sox, and is on our terrific team blanketing the Yanks and Twins in their American League Division Series.

We were stuck in the elevator for 25 minutes, cracking jokes all along the way. It wasn’t a tragic experience. The press conference started without us and when Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was told about it, he quipped: “What are they doing, chewing their arms and legs off?” That sounds about right for a group of sportswriters.

I felt sorry for the elevator operator. He had switched with another guy just as we boarded on the press level. It was less than a minute later when we came to that bumpy halt. I have to thank the Yankees service people, who worked quickly to spring us out. The elevator halted about six feet above the clubhouse level and when the front door was finally pried open from the outside we all had to step on low wrungs of a wooden ladder to get out. This was hardly the Titanic.

But as I said, I’ll be 58 on Oct. 26 and this is something I’d never experienced. So now I can add it to my resume: stuck in an elevator, in the new Yankee Stadium, of all places; 10 minutes from the apartment where I grew up in the north Bronx and my parents still live, and survived.

Towers went out like the class act he is

SAN DIEGO — There’s no crying in baseball and even though Kevin Towers sounded for a time like he was about to choke back a few tears on Saturday, he held his own.

“It took 47 years for them to get me, but they finally did today,” KT, the now former Padres general manager, said after reciting a litany of jobs in and out of baseball he had kept without being cut, fired or released until the grim reaper finally arrived.

When John Moores purchased the Padres in 1995, he stated bluntly that there was going to be stability on the field and in the front office on his watch. And he has held true to his word. In 15 years there have only been two managers and and a pair of GMs. For 11 of them — 1996-2006 — Towers and Bruce Bochy were together. And for the past three, it’s been Towers and Bud Black.

“That’s incredible, considering this day and age of baseball,” Black said.

Now Moores, who still owns 66 percent of the franchise, is phasing out. He’s handed the reins to Jeff Moorad, the most recent of six chief executives or club presidents who have held that job under his watch. Moorad, though, is the only one who heads a group that now owns a third of the team and is in line to buy it all during the next four seasons.

“It’s never a good time to make a move like this,” said Moorad, who disclosed that Moores certainly was part of the decision to change GMs. “I’m hoping that KT and I will remain good friends.”

Change is an essential part of life, a notion that Towers endorsed as he went out as the class act he is. New owners come in and they want their own people. Moorad has a vision of the future of Padres baseball operations that Towers isn’t evidently a part of. And he made the move full-knowing that he must pay Towers $1.4 million next season, perhaps just to sit around.

To Towers’ credit, he has no desire to rest on his laurels. He wants to take three weeks off and then see what’s out there in 2010. The Blue Jays just parted ways with J.P. Ricciardi.  Surely there will be other GM posts that will open after another curtain falls on another season Sunday. Towers said he’s already heard from more than a half-dozen GMs who want him to work as an area scout for their clubs next season.

“I want to stay in the game,” Towers said. “There will be a job. I’m 47 years old. I don’t expect to sit around.”

For now, Towers said he’ll hang around PETCO Park and say good bye to the Padres players in the clubhouse on Sunday. Moorad has set up a meeting in the club’s offices for Towers to address the staff on Monday. Until the time Towers is hired elsewhere, he’ll be able to maintain a ballpark office.

Being the gamer and the veteran he is, Towers said on Saturday he wasn’t quite sure if that was a good idea.

“I told them to use me if I can help them with anything,” Towers said. “But they need to move forward and turn the page.”

Another page of Padres history was turned on Saturday. And the guy who’s page was turned couldn’t have handled the situation with any more aplomb.