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Brian McGregor still has difficulty talking about his late son, Keli McGregor. The holiday season is a time when families get together, but for the fifth year Keli won’t be part of any McGregor family gathering. In April 2010, Keli McGregor, the president of the Colorado Rockies and looking as if he still could play four quarters on the football field, died in Salt Lake City while on a business trip. The cause of death for McGregor, just 48, was attributed to a rare virus that infected his heart muscle.
The report of McGregor’s death shocked baseball, the Rockies organization, the Colorado sports community and the McGregor family.
“I still can’t stop the tears when I think or talk about Keli,” Brian McGregor said. “I have a picture in my wallet of Keli, myself and Todd Helton.”
While the loss was devastating, the legacy left behind by Keli may have been the very thing that helped Brian McGregor regain his enthusiasm for life.
“Keli and the Rockies organization had a number of benefits for Children’s Hospital and they raised a lot of money to help its operation,” Brian McGregor said. “I even ended up being a volunteer at the hospital for several years.”
Brian McGregor didn’t live a pampered early life. He walked 2.3 miles each way to attend school. His mode of transportation from Montreal to Dubuque, Iowa, to attend Dubuque University was to hitchhike.
“I had $165 in my pocket, and the bus fare was $65,” McGregor said. “In those days, I hitchhiked everywhere. It was either that or riding a streetcar or a bus.”
McGregor’s life quickened after college. He made a stop with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, turned down a chance to run his wife’s family farm in Iowa, and visited a friend in Denver to see the area.
“I wanted to be a teacher and a coach,” McGregor said.
He arrived in 1963 and found an opening on the coaching staff at Lakewood Junior High School. He moved to Arvada West the following year as assistant football coach and head track and field coach. He soon became the head football coach, and his 1972 Arvada West team won the state championship.
Baseball a family game
McGregor doesn’t minimize the impact Keli’s connection to the Rockies had on his mind-set. He had retired after 26 years as head football coach at Arvada West in 1993. He stepped aside after 29 years as track and field coach the same year.
Growing up in Canada, McGregor played football, hockey and baseball and competed in track and field. Baseball was just something to fill the summer months.
“Baseball never was a big thing for me. But when Keli became involved with the Rockies, I became very interested,” McGregor said. “I rarely missed a game.”
Keli’s death was the beginning of an unbelievably difficult time. Brian’s wife died in 2012, and in January 2013 Brian suffered a broken neck from a fall on an icy driveway.
He has since recovered, but how did he get through it all?
“I’ve got 10 grandchildren and one great great-grandchild,” McGregor replied.
He still can have a family gathering for the holidays.