DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies president Keli McGregor, who parlayed a lifelong love of sports into a short stint in the NFL before embarking on a career in the baseball business, was found dead in his hotel room in Salt Lake City on Tuesday.
Detective Rick Wall said two of McGregor’s associates couldn’t get in touch with him and that someone entered his room at The Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City and found the 48-year-old McGregor unconscious Tuesday morning.
Police were called about 9 a.m. MDT and emergency workers arrived on the scene and were unable to revive him.
“There are no signs of foul play. … Based on the initial investigation (police and fire officials) did not see anything suspicious,” Wall said. “There is nothing suspicious. At this point it would look like it was some sort of a natural cause or something along those lines.”
Wall said the investigation has been turned over to the medical examiner’s office, which will determine the cause and time of death.
The Rockies said McGregor was on a business trip with team chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort and executive vice president Greg Feasel.
“Words cannot describe the level of shock and disbelief that we all are feeling this morning at the loss of Keli,” Charlie Monfort said in a statement. “Our thoughts, our prayers are with Lori and the entire family as we all try to cope and understand how such a tragic loss could occur with such a wonderful man.”
McGregor is survived by his wife, Lori, three daughters and a son.
His voice cracking, manager Jim Tracy said before the Rockies’ game at Washington on Tuesday night that he struggled with what to tell his team about McGregor’s death.
“I’m stunned. I can’t believe what’s happened,” Tracy said. “I told the players in the clubhouse: ‘I want to understand this, but I don’t.’ I don’t know what to say. I don’t understand it.
“We said a little prayer for him. The prayers are as much for him as for Lori and for those four children.”
The clubhouse was closed before the game.
“I guess shock is the word that describes it,” first baseman Todd Helton said as he walked out on the field. “Great man. I’ve known him 15 years. Last person you think you’d be getting that call about.
“He kept himself in great shape, worked hard. He really loved this team, loved his family even more,” Helton said. “We went duck hunting together, pumped up together, stayed up playing cards, golfed several times in the offseason.”
Rockies hitting coach Don Baylor, who was managing the club when McGregor came on board, said he was a passionate person who always put the organization first.
“He was a football guy. He didn’t understand what a 6-4-3 was or what an ERA was. It was a big learning experience for him,” Baylor said. “What a rising star this guy would have been because he really did so much for this organization. Every time you talked to him it was about the Rockies, not about himself, always about improving the club, on the field. He’s really going to be missed.
“Forty-eight years old. You’re still asking, ‘Why?'”
McGregor’s loss shook the sports communities across Colorado, where he was a multi-sport athlete at Lakewood High School, starred as a tight end at Colorado State and was drafted by the Denver Broncos before going into coaching and then embarking on a career in sports administration, joining the Rockies in 1993.
“He had only friends in the industry, and this is a terrible loss for the game,” Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer told the AP. “Keli has been instrumental in the success of the Rockies over the entire time he was with them because of his guidance and leadership in every aspect of the organization.”
Commissioner Bud Selig called McGregor “one of our game’s rising young stars,” and new union head Michael Weiner sent his condolences to McGregor’s family and the Rockies.
McGregor was in his 17th season with the Rockies, his ninth as club president. He began his career with the club in October 1993 as senior director of operations. He was promoted to senior vice president in 1996 and executive vice president in 1998.
McGregor was a four-year starter at Colorado State, where he went from freshman walk-on to second-team All-American tight end in 1984. An undersized halfback when he arrived on campus, McGregor had a growth spurt before his sophomore season and at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he went on to become an All-Western Athletic Conference tight end from 1982-84.
He set a single-season school record with 69 catches in 1983, a mark that stood for 10 years.
McGregor was selected by Denver in the fourth round of the 1985 NFL draft and played for the Broncos, Colts and Seahawks during his brief pro career.
McGregor was “a wonderful person and a highly respected professional whose loss will be felt throughout the entire Denver community,” Broncos chief operating officer Joe Ellis said.
McGregor joined the Rockies after a four-year stint as an associate athletic director at the University of Arkansas. He also was an assistant football coach for two years at the University of Florida from 1988-89, where he earned his Master’s degree in education with an emphasis on athletic administration.
McGregor, who was born in Primgahr, Iowa, was voted to Colorado State’s all-century team in 1992 and was named to the CSU Hall of Fame in 1996.
Last year, McGregor was the Rockies’ point man on a project that will result in the first major league baseball facility built on Indian land. The Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks partnered with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community, a sovereign tribe in the Phoenix area, and will move into the new facilities next spring after training 17 seasons in Tucson.
“This sport lost a true friend and gentleman today,” Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall said. “Keli has quickly become one of my closest friends over the last few years. In recent months, our collaborative work and vision on creating our new spring home has made that bond even tighter.
“I am deeply saddened that he will not see the project upon its completion, but even more distraught over the tragic thought that this beautiful family will be without its loving husband and father.”
CSU football coach Steve Fairchild called Tuesday “a heartbreaking day on our campus,” where McGregor’s daughter, Jordan, is a sophomore and where his godson, Ben Tedford, is a sophomore on the Rams football team.
“This is an enormous and tragic loss for CSU and all of Colorado,” university president Tony Frank said. “Keli was a true champion in life and on the field, who exemplified what we’d want for all our graduates — an honorable and successful business leader, dedicated family man, and loyal alumnus.”