Tigers first-base coach and former outfielder Kimera Bartee dies at 49

The Detroit Tigers announced on Tuesday that first-base coach and former outfielder Kimera Bartee died unexpectedly on Monday. Bartee, who spent four seasons of his six-year MLB career with the Tigers, was 49. No cause of death has been announced.

Bartee, a Nebraska native, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 14th round of the 1993 draft, and made his major-league debut with the Tigers in 1996, when he was 23. He played in 110 games for the Tigers that year, the most he'd play in one season. He went on to play parts of the next five seasons for the Tigers, the Cincinnati Reds and the Colorado Rockies, spending most of his time in the minors.

Following the end of his playing career, Bartee was hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 to be their minor-league outfield and baserunning coordinator, a role he stayed in for nine years until he was promoted to first-base coach and outfield instructor at the major-league level. He left the Pirates following the 2019 season and was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020 to be their roving baserunning and bunting coordinator.

The Tigers hired Bartee in 2021 to do a similar baserunning and outfield instruction job. When Chip Hale, the Tigers third-base coach, left midseason to become the head coach at the University of Arizona, Bartee was promoted to first-base coach. Detroit announced in November that they were keeping Bartee in that job for the 2022 season.

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch released a statement about Bartee's death, praising him for his ability to connect and communicate with players of any age.

“Like many across baseball, I was devastated by the news of Kimera’s passing. From the start of spring training last year, it was clear that ’KB’ was the epitome of a player’s coach, having an uncanny ability to build deep connections with anyone from a rookie to a 10-year veteran. I was proud of his selflessness and adaptability when he quickly shifted to the Major League staff last season, and how excited he was about the bright future he had in both baseball and life. The sport has lost an amazing man, but more importantly his family has lost a loving fiancé, father, and son.”

Al Avila, general manager of the Tigers, also released a statement about Bartee.

“All of us in the Tigers baseball family were shocked and saddened to learn that first base coach Kimera Bartee suddenly passed away on Monday at the age of 49. Throughout his time in our organization as both a player and coach, Kimera was known as a kind soul but intense competitor who did his best every day to elevate those around him to do great things. While Tigers fans got used to seeing him in the first base coach’s box, Kimera’s impact on our ballclub went far deeper and will be sorely missed. In speaking with Kimera’s father, Jerry Bartee, we offered our condolences and support to his family. The thoughts and prayers of everyone in the organization are with Kimera’s family and friends, and his memory and spirit will never be forgotten.”

While Bartee spent most of his playing years with Detroit, the majority of his post-playing years were spent with the Pirates. Team owner Bob Nutting released a statement on Tuesday about the passing of their longtime coach.

"We are deeply saddened to hear the news of the sudden passing of Kimera Bartee. He was a great person, whose upbeat attitude and infectious smile would always lift the spirits of anyone who interacted with him. Our hearts go out to his family, whom he loved so much. He was much too young and will be dearly missed."