Detroit Tigers first base coach Kimera Bartee, who played six years in the major leagues and four seasons with the Tigers, died on Monday.
He was 49 years old.
Bartee’s cause of death is unknown, but the Tigers were not aware of any illness. Tigers general manager Al Avila and manager AJ Hinch have spoken to Bartee’s father, Jerry Bartee, to offer their condolences and support.
Bartee was visiting his father in Omaha, Nebraska, when he collapsed. His family is currently in the process of making funeral arrangements. Bartee was an Omaha native and played college baseball in his hometown at Creighton University.
“All of us in the Tigers baseball family were shocked and saddened,” Avila said in a statement. “Throughout his time in our organization as both a player and a coach, Kimera was known as a kind soul but intense competitor who did his best every day to elevate those around him to do great things. While Tigers fans got used to seeing him in the first base coach’s box, Kimera’s impact on our ballclub went far deeper and will be sorely missed.
“The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the organization are with Kimera’s family and friends, and his memory and spirit will never be forgotten.”
Bartee played four of his six MLB seasons in Detroit from 1996-99, hitting .227 with four home runs. He stole 20 bases as a rookie. He spent the final two years of his career with the Cincinnati Reds (2000) and Colorado Rockies (2001). He finished with a .216 batting average, four home runs, 33 RBIs, 36 walks and 141 strikeouts in 243 games.
After Bartee’s playing career, he coached for the Baltimore Orioles (2004-07), Pittsburgh Pirates (2008-19), Philadelphia Phillies (2020) and Tigers (2021). He also managed State College in the New York-Penn League in 2011. (The Orioles drafted Bartee in the 14th round of the 1993 draft.)
Bartee spent 12 seasons in the Pirates organization, most recently as the first base coach on manager Clint Hurdle’s staff from 2017-19. He also served as the team’s minor-league baserunning and outfield coordinator for nine years.
“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of the sudden passing of Kimera Bartee,” Pirates owner Bob Nutting said in a statement. “He was a great person, whose upbeat attitude and infectious smile would always lift the spirts of anyone who interacted with him. Our hearts go out to his family, whom he loved so much. He was much too young and will be dearly missed.”
After Pittsburgh, Bartee worked as the Phillies’ minor-league baserunning and bunting coordinator in 2020. The Tigers hired him ahead of the 2021 season as the organization’s baserunning and outfield coordinator in the minors.
When third base coach Chip Hale left the Tigers in July to become the head coach at his alma mater, the University of Arizona, Hinch shifted Ramon Santiago — a Tigers player from 2002-03 and 2006-13 — from first base to third base. He then called up Bartee from the minors to handle first base coaching duties on an interim basis.
In November, Hinch decided to retain Bartee as the Tigers’ first base coach for the 2022 season.
“Like many across baseball, I was devastated by the news of Kimera’s passing,” Hinch said in a statement. “From the start of spring training last year, it was clear that ‘KB’ was the epitome of a player’s coach, having an uncanny ability to build deep connections with anyone from a rookie to a 10-year veteran. I was proud of his selflessness and adaptability when he quickly shifted to the major league staff last season, and how excited he was about the bright future he had in both baseball and life.
“The sport has lost an amazing man, but more importantly his family has lost a loving fiancé, father and son.”
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