Jeff Adcock wasn't a player and he wasn't a coach, but he was definitely part of the team. And the Milwaukee Brewers don't know quite what to do without their lead groundskeeper.
Adcock died at a Milwaukee hospital Sunday after collapsing in the home bullpen at Miller Park. Only 51 years old, Adcock spent all of his adult life working for the Brewers, first at old County Stadium. Reliever John Axford earned his 14th save of the season Monday, but said via MLB.com he felt an emptiness because his friend wasn't there to open the bullpen door as usual.
"There were memories of him, and when you're warming up, you're thinking about him a little bit," said Axford. "You have to try to push it aside. But when I was walking down that tunnel, that's one of the first things I noticed, was looking up and not seeing him."
[Adcock] had custom handshakes with all of the relievers and his own spot on the bench, where he always had a newspaper or fantasy football magazine in hand.
Adcock's Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, bought by reliever Kameron Loe after Adcock wore out his previous shoes, will remain in the bullpen for the rest of the season in his memory. The team will wear a "J.A." patch on its jerseys.
It's always neat to note, either in person or on TV, the interaction and relationship major leaguers have with the team's staff. Very often, they are treated as one of the gang — more than an assistant or an employee or a servant. These workers don't usually make a ton of money, but the players are in a unique position to make their jobs easier just by being friendly.
Adcock collapsed in the second inning Sunday, causing a delay until an ambulance could whisk him away. It made finishing the game difficult, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said, because the team knew that a colleague was in peril:
"It's tough," he said. "I'm still bothered by it. I addressed the team yesterday after the game. That wasn't easy for me to do. Things that happen in life, we're so sheltered in what we do out there in the field, it seems like we're not even part of the community and what goes on in real life.
"And when it hits you like that, some of our players are pretty bothered. They were bothered during the game yesterday, and a couple of them have talked to me about it."
Coincidentally (and just as awfully), the Brewers lost longtime head groundskeeper Gary Vanden Berg to cancer this past fall. The team also recently lost a press box worker, Ed Wellskopf, who worked Milwaukee Braves games. He was 87.
It's a tough time for the Brewers, and it has nothing to do with hitting or pitching or the standings.