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Saturday, February 16, 2002
Padres will attend Darr's funeral on Wednesday

Associated Press

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mike Darr's locker was left untouched Saturday, one day after the San Diego Padres outfielder was killed in a car crash.

"His spirit is still here," said reliever Tom Davey, one of Darr's closest friends on the team. "You can still think of Mike. And when you do, he puts a smile on your face. To look over at his locker right now and know he's not going to walk through this door ... it's crazy."

Darr's death cast a pall over the Padres' camp Saturday, as the usual declarations of optimism and excitement about the coming season gave way to grief.

Darr, 25, was killed Friday when the SUV he was driving rolled over on a highway about five miles from the team's training complex.

"Right now, everybody's thoughts are of Mike," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's what we're talking about. We'll all go to the funeral and show our respects. At some point, we will get prepared for the season. This has stunned us all."

Darr's friend, Duane Johnson, also was killed. Neither was wearing a seat belt, authorities said, and the accident appeared to be alcohol-related.

Minor league pitcher Ben Howard, who was wearing a seat belt in the back seat, survived with minor injuries.

Padres officials chartered a plane to fly the team and staff back to Southern California for Darr's funeral, which will be held Wednesday in his hometown of Corona.

"It's been a struggle, because the whole team isn't here," pitcher Trevor Hoffman said. "People are still coming into camp, and they haven't had the chance to digest it yet. It's kind of coming in waves, and I think it's going to carry on. The whole team going back to Corona will help. A life-goes-on attitude, I think, will help."

Darr was San Diego's Opening Day center fielder in 2001, his first full big league season, and started 69 games. He was an early arrival in camp, beating the Friday reporting date for pitchers and catchers. Position players aren't due until Wednesday.