MLB community mourns loss of exec Feeney

MLB community mourns loss of exec Feeney

Katy Feeney had an explorer's sense of adventure and an insatiable desire to see more and learn more. Hers was the definition of a life well lived, a life spent in baseball, but one that was so much more than that.

She backpacked across Europe after college, volunteered in soup kitchens, took tap dance lessons and discovered an Off Broadway production called Hamilton before it was a thing.

Her death at 68 on Saturday stunned and saddened those who knew her and loved and admired her. That extended from the highest levels of the sport to countless managers, players, umpires and others who counted on her grace, resilience and wisdom.

Her official title at the time of her retirement from Major League Baseball on Dec. 31 was "senior vice president, scheduling and club relations." During a 39-year career in baseball, she worked on scheduling, organized news conference at big events and handled an assortment of logistics. She was also more than her job description.

To several generations of baseball people, she was a rock of consistency. Her entire life -- that is, her entire life -- was spent in the sport she loved.

Her best friend and longtime co-worker, Phyllis Merhige, called her "the most giving, generous, community-minded person I know. She cared so much. She did so much good no one ever knew about."

They were two of the most enduring and prominent women in Major League Baseball and are featured prominently in the Hall of Fame's "Women in Baseball" exhibit.

In a statement, Major League Baseball called her "a mentor to many young officials and one of the leading pioneers to the female executives of our game."

Another longtime friend, Royals executive Mike Swanson said: "Katy was one of the most passionate, loyal people to the sport of baseball that I've ever met in my career.

"She was born into the game and did her entire family proud as a caretaker of our sport. She and Phyllis Merhige were mentors to so many of us coming up, and losing her was like a family member passing."

Reds president and CEO Bob Castellini said Feeney was "a friend to every team and to every person in the game." Giants president and CEO Larry Baer called her "a longtime friend that left an imprint, not only on the Giants' organization, but all of baseball."

This is the definition of a baseball life. Katy's dad, Chub Feeney, was president of the National League for 17 years (1970-86) and an executive with the San Francisco Giants for 24 (1946-70). His grandfather, Charles Stoneham, and great uncle, Horace Stoneham, owned the Giants for almost 60 years.

That's the life Katy was born into, and many of her earliest and most vivid memories revolved around the ebbs and flows of a baseball season. She spoke its language and understood its rhythms.

She loved it too, all of it -- Spring Training and Opening Day, the All-Star Game and World Series. Even after exploring so much of the world, it was the ballpark where she felt most at home.

She loved ballparks, old ones and new ones and all those in between. She liked to sit in them when they were empty and spoke to her baseball soul. She loved them full too, packed and raucous.

After graduating from the University of California more than four decades ago, she took two months to explore Europe in a backpacking odyssey that began a life of travel and of museums and food and culture in various corners of the earth.

She was New Yorker most of all and was involved in an assortment of community projects. She was a voracious reader, and late in life, poured herself into Spanish classes.

Her final trip abroad was to India, a journey she finished only a few weeks ago. She died in her sleep on Saturday during a visit to family in Maine. She leaves a sport heartbroken, saddened by her passing, warmed by her memory.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.