Simply Baseball Notebook: Perspectives

Mike Darr 1976-2002

'PERSPECTIVE': March 2002

Kevin Darr Sponsors this page: 
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
We will always love you.
-Your family

In Memory of
Michael Curtis Darr 


The beginning of Spring Training is supposed to be a time when optimism reigns supreme, but that was all put on hold on February 15th when San Diego Padres outfielder Mike Darr was tragically killed in a one car accident. Darr was just over a month shy of his 26th birthday, he leaves his wife, Natalie, and their two children, Michael Jr. and Matthew.

A three sport star in high school (football, basketball, baseball), Darr hit .512 with 12 home runs as a senior at Corona (CA) high. Following his father, also named Mike who pitched professionally in the 70s including a one inning stint with the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, Darr would chose baseball as his profession.

In June of 1994 he was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Tigers and played in their farm system until spring of '97 when he was dealt to San Diego for 2B Jody Reed. At Single A Rancho Cucamonga Darr broke out hitting .344 15 HR and 94 RBI, which earned him San Diegos Minor League Player of the Year Award. He followed up with another strong season in 1998, hitting .310 at AA Mobile.

By that time Darr was regarded as one of the organization's top prospects. He didn't have great power, but was a line drive hitter that had speed to leg out extra base hits. He was also an above average outfielder with a strong arm and great range. A shot at the big leagues would come very soon for Mike Darr.

Darr made his major league debut on May 23, 1999, and picked up his first hit in his fourth at bat off Arizona's Andy Benes. His first home run would come on June 8th against Oakland's Tim Hudson. He played in 13 games, hitting .226, before being sent down to AAA Las Vegas. Darr was called up again on September 9th and fared much better during that stint hitting .353 in 12 games. He finished the season with a .271 AVG in 48 AB.

Darr also split the 2000 season between San Diego and Las Vegas. He had a five game stint in April with the Padres before being sent down, but went on to share the organization's Minor League Player of the Year Award with Jeremy Owens (he also won the award outright in 1997). After being recalled on July 31st, he went on to start 49 of the Padres final 57 games. All told, he played in 58 games and hit .268.

2001 was Darr's breakthrough season; he was the Padres opening day center fielder and went 2 for 2. Although he hit only 2 home runs, they both came in dramatic fashion. On August 16th he beat the Mets with a 2-run blast in the bottom of the 8th, the other came in the bottom of the 10th on September 22nd defeating the Giants. Darr finished the season with a .277 AVG in 105 games. He played all three outfield positions and posted a .990 fielding percentage, leading the club with six outfield assists.

With the retirement of Tony Gwynn and Rickey Henderson leaving via free agency, a regular outfield spot was there for Darr's taking entering Spring Training. The Padres thought highly enough of Darr to place him on the cover of their 2002 media guide, along with five other players, with the title "The Blue Print for the Future". Now the team will have to cope with a tragedy for a second straight year (On July 29, 2001 minor league pitcher Gerik Baxter was also killed in a car accident).

Darr's free spirited personality made him popular in the clubhouse, "Everybody liked Mike Darr," said former teammate Ben Davis (now with Seattle). "Honestly, I can't believe there is any way anyone could not like Mike Darr. Everyone liked who he was and how he played the game. He was one of my best friends and I loved playing ball with him. He was always exciting to watch because he could do anything on the field. This could have been a big year for him."

A friend of Darr's and passenger in his car, Duane Johnson, 23 of Reno, NV, was also killed in the accident. Neither he nor Darr were wearing their seat belts. Ben Howard, also 23, survived the accident with minor injures. He was riding in the back seat and wearing his seat belt. Howard is a minor league pitcher in the Padres organization.

Sadly, we will never see Mike Darr play another game of baseball. More importantly he leaves a wife without a husband and two young children without a father.

Rest-In-Peace Mike.

-David Zingler

Darr's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com


Just one of my favorite Mike Darr Memories:

Television broadcast at Pac Bell. June 2001. Mike's in center. Wind blowing out to left, with gusts.

Ball hit to left-center. Mike runs to where he thinks it's going-then-whoosh-he had to really stre-ee-tch and leaps up to get it.

Giants' broadcast shows Mike's vocal and body reaction immediately after the play. Up-close.

Giant's announcers version of lip-reading Mike: "Wow! I barely got to that one!"

My lip-reading: "F---! I barely got to that one!" He used his entire body to show his surprise. Then broke into a huge grin while looking at another outfielder.

I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. It was sooo obviously not "Wow".

A friend and I met Mike last year outside of Pac Bell Park after a Giants-Padres game. He was standing near the curb. We started talking to him about his arm hurting (it was injured at the time). He chatted for quite awhile. He was very nice, very approachable. He took pictures with us, signed things. No problem.

Rest In Peace, Michael Curtis Darr. I miss you.

Denise Stafford
Pleasanton, California

I remeber going to a game really early to watch batting practice. I was sitting over the San Diego Padres dugout and Mike Darr was coming towards the dugout. There was this kid next to me that I overheard saying Mike Darr was his favorite player. So when Mike Darr walked near us the kid screamed his name. Mike Darr looked up and waved. I remeber looking at the little boys expression on his face. Mike had just made that little boy's day.

Sarah Diot
San Diego, CA

I definitely was in love with Mike and am so sad now.....I always enjoyed the way he stood in the batting box and how his tattoos bulged from underneath his jersey......I will miss him so much.

Much love,
Amy Wolfe

My family has been Padres season ticket holder for several years. We were fortunate enough to be able to meet and talk with Mike along the first base line as he stretched out prior to the game with several other Padres players. Mike would always wave hello and time permitting take time before the game, to come to the rail to sign for the kids. My son deeply enjoyed conversing with Mike. Mike will be missed. God's assembeled quite a baseball team in heaven. Mike will be right their with all of them. I wonder what the Babe will say when he sees Mike's tatoos. with Mike's kids name and the rest of the artwork. God Bless Mike and the Padres and the Darr family.

-Jeff Morse

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