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11/30/07 11:39 PM ET

Kennedy fondly remembered

Friends, family share memories of playful left-hander

GOLDEN, Colo. -- Major League pitcher Joe Kennedy was remembered as a guy who could provide the playful slap on the back, a good time and some deep conversation as he made lasting friends through his time in baseball.

Kennedy, 28, who pitched in the Majors from 2001-07, collapsed and died while visiting in-laws last Friday. A private memorial service attended by family and friends, and many Major Leaguers, was conducted Friday at the Rockland Community Church in Golden.

Kennedy is survived by his wife, Jami, and 1-year-old son, Kaige. Jami is expecting the couple's second child in June 2008.

The Kennedys had purchased a home in the Denver area. Kennedy was with the Rockies in 2004 and most of 2005. Rockies chaplain Bill Rader officiated the service, and Colorado teammates Todd Helton and Matt Holliday read Bible verses. Many of his Rockies teammates attended, along with teammates from other teams. Nick Bierbrodt, Dan Haren and Frank Thomas were among the pallbearers.

Kennedy pitched for the Rays (2000-03), the Rockies, the Athletics (2005-07), the Blue Jays (2007) and the Diamondbacks (2007).

Damon Lapa,who became Kennedy's agent in 2000, said the two became such close friends that they talked nearly every day. The longest they didn't speak was four days, and that was because, he said, Jami hid his cellphone during the couple's honeymoon. They shared a hobby -- shopping, but also shared getting married and having children.

Todd Greene was a teammate of Kennedy's with the Rockies, and the two developed a lasting friendship Greene, a backup catcher, spent quite a bit of time in the clubhouse with Kennedy. Greene was especially impressed that Kennedy would always spend time with Greene's young son in the clubhouse.

Greene said when he asked his son why, the child replied, "I feel safe."

When the Athletics obtained Kennedy in a trade with the Rockies, they sent left-handed pitcher Ron Flores down to Triple-A Sacramento. But when Kennedy pitched his way into the starting rotation, Flores got another shot. When he arrived, Kennedy came to him and gave him a dose of his wry sense of humor with his first words.

"It's a good thing for you that they like me so much," Flores recalled.

Flores, who has been up and down between the Athletics and Triple-A Sacremento for three years, went on to say that Kennedy was always the first to give him a congratulatory text message whenever he was called up. Kennedy would also take Flores to dinner or offer him a place to stay after callups. The two also would have deep conversations in which Kennedy would talk of trying to become "a better husband, a better father, a better person."

Derek Anderson, a left-handed pitcher who started his career with the Rays organization at the same time as Kennedy, said the two hit it off when Kennedy merely wanted to get to know him, rather than size up the competition.

Anderson said Kennedy became close with his parents and his entire family when they'd make visits from Seattle. When Kennedy was called to the Majors, he checked the schedule to see that the Rays would be playing the Mariners. One of his first calls was to Anderson, who told him, "I'm going to see your family."

Anderson said Kennedy was to serve as best friend at his wedding. Instead, Jami stepped in and pulled off Joe's speech.

At the end, Anderson asked those in attendance to give Joe Kennedy applause.

Memorial donations may be made at any Bank of America branch to The Joe Kennedy Family Memorial Fund c/o Brad Gallimore, 1013 16th Ave. South, Nashville, Tenn. 37212.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.