ST. LOUIS — The mood in the Phillies’ clubhouse before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Cardinals was somber but workmanlike.
David Montgomery would have wanted it no other way.
“David would want us to focus on today's game and win a baseball game,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I don't think there is any doubt that anybody who knew David would tell you he didn't want the spotlight, he didn't want the attention. He wanted us to focus on each other, picking each other up and caring for each other and making the Phillies a winning organization so that's what we'll do out of respect for him today.”
Montgomery, the team’s beloved former president, died Wednesday morning after a five-year battle with cancer. Montgomery was prominent and respected in baseball circles — Commissioner Rob Manfred called him a “mentor” — and in the community. The City of Philadelphia announced that flags would fly at half-staff for a week in Montgomery’s honor. That’s a pretty remarkable sign of respect.
Montgomery transitioned out of his president’s role to the role of chairman in late 2014, but he remained around the ballpark and in the community in recent years. The latest generation of Phillies players did not know him as well as past generations, but they sensed his impact and felt his values.
“This is a very family-oriented organization,” said Rhys Hoskins, one of the new-generation Phillies who did get to know Montgomery. “I think sometimes as kids you joke about the golden rule. I think David was the epitome of that. It never was about him. He never had an agenda. It was always about what could he do for other people and the people around him. I felt that as soon as I got to Philly in 2017. I know Jayme, my fiancee, definitely feels that culture that he established. Any time my family comes, first-class. I don't think that's there without David Montgomery.
“The guy cared about his community probably more than anything else in this world. Probably the heartbeat of this organization for the 50 years he was a part of it. Perseverance. Obviously, with his fight against the sickness that he had. He started as a ticket salesman and worked his way up to team president. If that's not fight, if that's not determination, if that's not perseverance, then I don't know what it is. It’s obviously, a very, very sad day for the city of Philadelphia, for this organization, for us as a team. Gone but definitely not forgotten.”
Kapler also talked about familial way Montgomery ran the Phillies.
“I didn't know David for long, about a year and a half, but he had a pretty powerful impact on me, as he did with everybody under this roof,” Kapler said. “In particular, immediately he made me feel like family and made me feel like I was home and I think he had a unique ability to do that for anybody he came into contact with. I think that's why today is such a deeply saddening day because everybody felt like they knew David well whether they knew him for two months, two years or 20 years. It's just an enormous loss not just for the Philadelphia Phillies organization but, I think, the city of Philadelphia.”
The Cardinals honored Montgomery’s memory with a moment of silence before the game.
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