Coincidentally, the final hours of Major League Baseball roster cutdowns before 2021 Opening Day were spent celebrating the life of a coach whose impact was felt most on days like these, when he delivered news — good and bad.
A celebration of life was set to be held Wednesday for former Arizona Diamondbacks vice president of player development Mike Bell, who died Friday after a battle with kidney cancer.
“It’s hard to put into words,” D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said Wednesday on Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf. “It happened so quickly and (was) so devastating for so many people in baseball.
“What a remarkable human being that many might not know. Most in baseball, if not all, do and were touched by him.”
Bell fell ill last July and in January was diagnosed with cancer.
He was a third-generation MLB player, and his brother, David Bell, is currently manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Hazen, who got his baseball management career started with the Cleveland Indians, first got to know Bell’s father, Buddy Bell.
In 2016, Hazen joined the Diamondbacks to lead the front office, and by that point, Mike Bell had already been working his way up the organization’s ladder.
Bell, who in 2019 joined the Minnesota Twins as bench coach, spent 13 years with the same D-backs organization that originally added him as a player in the expansion draft of 1997. He later served as a minor league manager, field coordinator and farm director.
Then came a promotion to lead Diamondbacks’ player development before he joined Minnesota two years ago.
After falling ill this year, Bell remained in Phoenix and worked remotely for the Twins during spring training.
From first-hand accounts players and coaches have shared about Bell since his death, it seems fitting that a difficult goodbye was being had a day before the 2021 season started.
“He was so warm, had such an innate ability to, as a farm director, you’re not always giving good news,” Hazen said of Bell’s strongest skill. “There’s guys that you tell, they’re going up to the big leagues. Those are the fun days. Then there’s guys that you’re telling (them) they didn’t make a team or they’re going to be released.
“He had such a way of connecting with so many players. More impressively, the times he had to talk through the harder things with their families, or what they were dealing with off the field or simple failure that they weren’t going to be a major league baseball player.”
Hazen said working with Bell from 2016 through 2019 helped him grow as a GM.
“There’s a relationship that gets formed because of the nature of those two jobs, they’re so intertwined,” Hazen said. “The issues that you have on and off the field, you always have to talk through. He had such a patience with a group of players and really helped me … I’m going to shock you guys here, it’s not my strong suit, but he had such a patience about him with guys and that probably left the biggest mark.
“He had such a future in front of him, but (I’m sad) more for his wife and his kids and how much they loved him and will miss him,” Hazen added. “I know it gets said a lot. This one is especially hard because of the human being that he was.”