Former D-backs general manager Kevin Towers dies at age 56

SAN DIEGO — Kevin Towers, former general manager of the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, died Tuesday from complications of cancer. He was 56.

Towers, who was called “the Gunslinger” for his free-wheeling, swashbuckling approach to baseball and life, was general manager in Arizona from 2010 to 2014.

He had been diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer a little more than a year ago. Friend and former agent Barry Axelrod said he died Tuesday at a hospital. Towers’ wife, Kelley, was at his side.

“We lost an important member of our family and someone I personally love dearly,” said D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall. “He was one of the biggest personalities the game has ever seen, with a heart of gold and an eye for talent. He could not get enough of baseball, and baseball could not get enough of our KT. It is no surprise he fought for extra innings. Our love goes out to Kelley, his family and everyone who knew him.”

Axelrod said Towers was admitted to a hospital with fluid on his lungs a few days ago, and friends and family members thought he would be able to go home Tuesday

Towers became a scout in the Padres organization after his playing career – he was a right-handed pitcher — stalled out in the minor leagues.

He became the Padres general manager in 1995 at the age of 34 and held the position for 15 years. San Diego won the NL West division pennant four times during his tenure and advanced to the World Series in 1998.

He replaced Josh Byrnes as the Diamondbacks general manager in September 2010. The D-backs went from 97 losses in 2010 to 94 wins in 2011, winning the NL West title. But they fell back to the middle of the pack the following year and were unable to match the success of Towers’ first season in charge. His days with the D-backs became numbered when Tony La Russa was hired as chief of baseball operations midway through a 98-loss 2014 season.

It was during Towers’ tenure that the team signed first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to a five-year contract extension in 2013, less than 200 games into his major-league career.

Towers is also credited with raising the team’s global presence – signing players from Japan, Brazil and Germany and making goodwill visits on behalf of the team to Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

“KT was the epitome of a good baseball man who played a significant role in the history of the D-backs, and his contributions to our franchise will never be forgotten,” said D-backs Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick. “He fought hard until the very end, as we all knew he would, and I will always remember him for his positive outlook on life. Baseball lost a great executive and person.”

Former Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, upon his election to baseball’s Hall of Fame last week, grew emotional when he mentioned Towers’ influence on his career.

Towers was widely admired throughout baseball, and news of his passing elicited an outpouring of sympathy on social media.