Salt Lake Det. Rick Wall said police responded to the Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City and found McGregor in his room.
“We didn’t see anything suspicious,” Wall said. “He did pass away of natural causes. The official cause of death will be investigated by the Salt Lake City Medical Examiner’s Office.” Wall said it could be two days before a cause of death is released. The Rockies were notified by Salt Lake City Police and issued a statement late this morning.
“Words cannot describe the level of shock and disbelief that we all are feeling this
morning at the loss of Keli,” team owner Charlie Monfort said. “Our thoughts, our prayers are with (McGregor’s wife) Lori and the entire family as we all try to cope and understand how such a tragic loss could occur with such a wonderful man.” Wall said McGregor, 48, was in Salt Lake City on Rockies’ business.
John Youngren, a vice president at Love Communications in Salt Lake City, told the Salt Lake Tribune that McGregor was in Salt Lake City with four other team officials, including Charlie Monfort. The five attended a “VIP barbecue” in Salt Lake Monday night, with a goal of promoting the team in Utah. Two of the officials left Salt Lake City Monday night after the barbecue, Youngren said. The other three, including McGregor, were to leave today.
One of those Rockies officials, whose identity has not yet been released, tried reaching McGregor this morning but was unable to get an answer and asked the hotel to check on him. That’s when police were called. As Rockies players learned of the news this morning, they reacted in stunned disbelief. One prominent player kept asking for it to be repeated, unable to wrap his arms around the idea because of McGregor’s impeccable fitness level. McGregor worked out most days, and was considered in top physical shape.
Rockies star shorstop Troy Tulowitzki, with the team in Washington D.C., said he was stunned by the news.
“We knew how much pride he took in the organization not only on, but off the field,” Tulowitzki said. “Everybody has said it, he was a really good guy. He treated everybody with respect, no matter if you were a fan coming into the ballpark for the first time or a player.
“You look at how he lived his life and you want to model that. His presence when he walked into a room, him being as big as he was that took you back. But when he talked, he commanded the room. You could tell it was coming from his heart. He had passion and took everything to heart and not too many people do that with their job.”
One of McGregor’s major accomplishments was orchestrating the Rockies’ move from their spring training home in Tuscon to a new faciltity near Scottsdale. The Rockies are scheduled to move to their new home next spring.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig issued the following statement regarding McGregor’s death: “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am very saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of Keli McGregor. As president of the Colorado Rockies, Keli was one of our game’s rising young stars. He was a great athlete and equally great as a baseball administrator. Also, he was a great human being. All of baseball will miss him. I offer my condolences and deepest sympathies to his family, friends and the Rockies ball club.”
As news spread, tributes to McGregor poured in from throughout the baseball and business communities, and from politicians.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper noted McGregor’s devotion to the city.
“He was as committed to the Colorado Rockies as he was to community service,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “We will miss his passion for sports, his emphasis on building leaders for tomorrow and his love of Denver.”
CSU president Tony Frank said, “This is an enormous and tragic loss for CSU and all of Colorado. Keli was a true champion in life and on the field, who exemplified what we’d want for all our graduates–an honorable and successful business leader, dedicated family man, and loyal alumnus who was unwavering in his support for CSU and our students. The McGregors are an important part of our CSU family, and our hearts are with them and his Rockies colleagues at this difficult time.”
McGregor was a two-time All-American tight end at Colorado State. He was drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 1985 NFL draft. He played for the Broncos, Indianapolis and Seattle before retiring. He was a multisport start at Lakewood High who grew to 6-foot-7, 270 pounds by the time he played for the Broncos.
McGregor ranks third on CSU’s single-season reception list (69) and stands fifth on the all-time reception list with 153. He was voted to the school’s All-Century Team in 1992 and was inducted into the CSU’s Hall of Fame in 1996. McGregor was named president of the Rockies on Oct. 18, 2001. He was beginning his 17th season with the organization.
McGregor began his career with the Rockies in October 1993 as senior director of operations. He was promoted to senior vice president in 1996 and executive vice president in 1998.
McGregor was born in Primghar, Iowa. McGregor and his wife have four children. His father, Brian McGregor, was a 30-year football coach at Arvada West High after playing in the Canadian Football League. During his freshman year at CSU, Keli McGregor became friends with Michael McMorris, son of Jerry, who at the time was an athletic booster who ran a trucking company. When Jerry McMorris became the Rockies’ president and chief executive officer, he knew who he wanted to help run the franchise someday.
At CSU, McGregor earned his degree in microbiology with the intention of becoming a large-animal veterinarian. He later changed fields and got his master’s in sports administration at the University of Florida, then hooked on with the University of Arkansas to serve as assistant athletic director to Frank Broyles.
Current Arkansas Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director Jeff Long said McGregor’s loss will be felt there too.
“In his four years as an athletic administrator at the University of Arkansas, Keli enhanced the lives of Razorback student-athletes through his work in academic support and student life,” Long said in a statement. “Even as he assumed new leadership roles with the Colorado Rockies, Keli’s success remained a source of pride for the Razorback program. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lori, the entire McGregor family and the Colorado Rockies organization.”