Houston Astros MLB

Father Figure: Darryl Kile’s Kids Honor Legacy Of Former Astros, Cards RHP

Darryl Kile left behind memories of a dominating pitcher who collected Ks with a knee-buckling curve. His former teammates remember a fun-loving, caring family man who was stunningly taken far before his time, at the age of 33. His three kids, babies at the time, struggle to recall a father they’re told adored them.

Kile passed away June 22, 2002, of a sudden heart attack (officially, a narrowing of the arteries supplying the heart muscle). He was found in his Chicago hotel bed hours before a scheduled game between his St. Louis Cardinal teammates and the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Ryker Kile was a 10-month-old on that tragic day, and twins Sierra and Kannon, just 5.

It’s hard for them to remember a choked-up Cubs catcher, Joe Girardi, who was given the unenviable task of announcing to the crowd that day the cancellation of the game, and being unable to tell them why. No one could confirm, at the time, if Darryl’s wife, Flynn, had been informed of her husband’s passing.

“I thank you for your patience,” Girardi said to the crowd, waiting for the game to start. “We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinals family, the Commissioner has canceled the game today.”

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in the game,” Girardi told MLB, in a 2012 documentary on Kile’s death.

Four days later, a memorial service was held for Kile at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. After the funeral, Mike Matheny, the Cards’ catcher at the time—and a close friend of Kile’s–held the twins’ hands as they walked down into a private area, off the field, where the players greeted the Kile family. Almost fifteen years later, he’s the Cardinals’ manager.

Within the week, 5-year-old Kannon was throwing out the first pitch before a Busch Stadium game between his dad’s Cards and the Milwaukee Brewers.

December Song

Darryl Kile was born in the shadow of Disneyland, in Garden Grove, California, December 2, 1968. Barbra Streisand’s Funny Girl was tops at the box office, and Marvin Gaye’s I Heard it Through the Grapevine was about to be unleashed to AM radio.

Kile was drafted out of Norco High School (32 miles east of Garden Grove) by the Houston Astros in the 30th round of the 1987 draft. He pitched 2 years (1987, ’88) at Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga, California (20 miles north of Norco), compiling a 10-2 record, with 125 strikeouts in 110 innings in 1988.

I Knew You Were Waiting

He made his MLB debut for the Astros on April 8, 1991, after a 5-10, 6.64 ERA 1990 at Houston’s Triple-A Tucson Toros affiliate. He pitched one scoreless relief inning in Cincinnati. Two weeks later, in Houston, he started his first game against the Reds, and pitched 6 innings of no-hit ball in a no-decision. Then-manager, Art Howe, wanted to protect his new young pitcher’s 22-year-old arm.

Kile got his no-hitter, though, on September 8, 1993, against the New York Mets in the Astrodome. It was the Astros’ ninth franchise no-hitter, and the closest to a perfect game any Houston pitcher has gotten; Kile faced just 28 batters in the ‘Stros’ 7-1 win.

Kile made the National League All-Star team twice with Houston (1993, ’97), and once with the Cardinals (2000), to whom he was traded after a two-year stint with the Colorado Rockies (1998-’99).

He was third in the league in ERA in 1997, with a 2.57 (posting 4 shut-outs), his final season in Houston. He logged a 19-7 record, and finished fifth in the Cy Young Award balloting, before signing a free agent deal with Colorado following the ’97 season.

You Have Been Loved

Since Kile’s death, the Astros, Rockies, and Cardinals have not assigned his number 57 to another player, although none of those teams has formally retired the number.

The Astros honored Kile with a memorial “DK” plaque that hangs along the left field wall at Minute Maid Park, just under the 1997 NL Central Division Championship banner, the last season Kile played for Houston. The Rockies have a round “DK 57” memorial near their bullpens. The Cardinals honored Kile by placing a small “DK 57” sign in the home bullpen, and was moved, in 2006, into the new Busch Stadium, where it is today.

In 2003, the Darryl Kile Good Guy Award was established and is presented annually to the Astros player and Cardinals player who best exemplify Kile’s traits of “a good teammate, a great friend, a fine father, and a humble man.”

The winners are selected by the Houston and St. Louis chapters, respectively, of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), the organization responsible for Baseball Hall of Fame voting. The first recipient of the award on the Astros was 2017 Hall-of-Fame inductee Jeff Bagwell. The first Cardinals award recipient was Mike Matheny.

Related: Stars Align in Astros Universe, as Bagwell Joins Biggio in HOF

For 2016, the Cards’ RHP Jonathan Broxton won the DK Good Guy Award, while RHP Collin McHugh was tapped as the Astros’ recipient.

Related: McHugh: The Evolution of a Renaissance Man

Cowboys and Angels

The twins, Kannon and Sierra, graduated from San Diego’s  Torrey Pines High School in 2015.

According to a June 22, 2015, StLSportsPage.com article, Kannon (6’5″) was a volleyball player for the Falcons at Torrey Pines, and pulled a 3.4 GPA taking AP (Advanced Placement) classes.

He has set up a website, and on it, he lists his activities as a member of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), with some volunteering, and a love for beach volleyball, scuba, wake-surfing, and basketball.

“I really don’t remember much about those days,” said Kannon in a May 4, 2015, article for UTPreps.com. “I knew my dad was a baseball player, and when he died, I knew something was different.

“But he was gone a lot during the season, so at first it wasn’t really that big a deal. My memories are kind of fragmented, but I remember we had a warm, happy family.”

Also in the UTPreps.com article, Kannon described his affinity for volleyball: “I fell in love with the speed and tempo of the sport. I loved that you have to play as a team to succeed.

“And I loved the fact I could jump and hit the ball hard.”

His twin sister, Sierra, is a sophomore at TCU (Ft. Worth, TX), playing sand volleyball for the Horned Frogs, and majoring in business.

While his two siblings play sports with a larger white, round ball, Ryker is the one who favors baseball. He’s also the one who really didn’t know his father at all (not quite 1 when his father passed). He was on the 2012 Rancho Santa Fe Little League team AAA League Champion Phillies team (San Diego County).

According to the StLSportsPage.com article, he “also played on a team called the Padres, according to his ASK.FM page. One question asked to Ryker, recently, was which team he would like to be a batboy for if he could be a batboy for any team. His answer was ‘Why would I want to be a batboy when I can play?'”

Ryker attends Santa Fe Christian School in Solana Beach (San Diego County), and hopes to be a pro baseball player when he grows up.

A Different Corner

Three years after Darryl’s death, his wife Flynn met Dave Jensen, and they married. Jensen has assumed the role of father to the kids and “they seem very grounded,” according to the StLSportsPage.com article.

“I’d like to play college volleyball and get into the financial field,” Kannon said in the article. “My father, Dave (Jensen), has been a big influence on me. I see how he invests in things, turns things around, and I’d like to get into that kind of work too.”

Heal the Pain

“I think that one of the coolest things my dad and I had was, we were friends. He was always showing me different things and I’d ask him questions, and if he didn’t know the answer we’d go work it out together, we’d go look it up. That meant a lot to me. So hopefully as my children grow up, I’ll be able to help them learn things more than tell them what to do.” – Darryl Kile (June 11, 2002, eleven days before his death).

During his brief life, and even shorter MLB career, Darryl Kile held on to one telling, hopeful belief, and it’s one that Ryker, Sierra, and Kannon know only too well, now:

You gotta have faith.

Video: Watch an 8 1/2-minute preview of the 2012 MLB Network documentary on Kile’s passing.


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