DETROIT — Kimera Bartee, a former Orioles center field prospect who later played and coached in the major leagues, died Monday. He was 49.
The Detroit Tigers made the announcement Tuesday, saying Bartee died suddenly. They did not disclose the cause of death.
“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,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said.
“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.”
Bartee, who was from Omaha, Nebraska, and played for his hometown Creighton University Bluejays, was selected by the Orioles in the 14th round of the 1993 amateur draft. He played for Rookie-level Bluefield that season, for High-A Frederick in 1994, and for Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Rochester in 1995.
That September, the Orioles sent him to the Minnesota Twins to complete a July trade in which they sent pitcher Scott Klingenbeck to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Scott Erickson. The Orioles claimed him back from the Twins in the Rule 5 draft three months later, then the Tigers selected him off waivers from the Orioles the following March.
Bartee was an outfielder in Detroit from 1996 to 1999 and played the next two seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies.
The Tigers promoted him to first base coach during the 2021 season after he was the organization’s roving outfield and base-running instructor, a role he had in 2020 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was previously first base coach for the Pirates Pirates and was an outfield and base-running coordinator for their minor league teams.
“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,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said.
“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 fiance, father, and son.”