MILWAUKEE -- Even though Brewers closer John Axford knew Jeff Adcock wouldn't be waiting for him to open the bullpen door on Monday night, part of him still expected the groundskeeper of 33 years to be there. Instead, as Axford made his way to the mound to record his 14th save of the season, he saw a different face and was presented with another reminder that Adcock, who passed away Sunday, was gone. "There were memories of him, and when you're warming up, you're thinking about him a little bit," said Axford. "You have to try to push it aside. But when I was walking down that tunnel, that's one of the first things I noticed, was looking up and not seeing him."
Adcock collapsed in the bullpen during the first inning of Sunday's game, and after being attended to by paramedics, he was transported to Froedtert Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at age 51. Groundskeepers at Miller Park plan to wear "JA" patches the rest of the season in his honor. Spending more than half his life working for the Brewers, Adcock left a strong impression on those who knew him in the Milwaukee organization, especially the relievers who saw him every day. "It's extremely shocking," right-hander Kameron Loe said. "It's almost like you can't really describe it. To have somebody there one day, and it seems like he's in full health and doing his job, and all of a sudden he just collapsed. It just shows you how precious life is, and we all need to be thankful for every day we get." Before Monday's game, Axford said Adcock had long been a fixture in the Brewers' bullpen. He had custom handshakes with all of the relievers and his own spot on the bench, where he always had a newspaper or fantasy football magazine in hand. Adcock was also known for his Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, which were so much a part of his persona that a pair hung on a railing in the bullpen during a moment of silence in his honor Monday night. They stayed there for the remainder of the game, along with flowers and a couple of fantasy football magazines that sat in his usual seat. Axford said the shoes will be a staple in the bullpen the rest of the season, much like Adcock was before he died. Adcock spent so much time with the relievers out in left field, he was considered to be one of the guys. And when his shoes looked like they needed replacing, Loe even once bought him new ones. "It looked like he had ran a couple thousand miles in them," Loe said. "So I decided to buy him the classic black and white and then the all blacks. He loved them, he was all appreciative. He saved the black ones for his nice [clothes] and wearing outside and stuff. We're definitely going to miss him out here." Sunday's game was delayed for about 15 minutes between the first and second innings while paramedics performed CPR on Adcock and transported him from the field. Brewers players in the game gathered in center field, and manager Ron Roenicke looked on from behind home plate. Although those in the bullpen likely knew Adcock best, a visibly upset Roenicke said Monday that it was a difficult day for everyone. "It's tough," he said. "I'm still bothered by it. I addressed the team yesterday after the game. That wasn't easy for me to do. Things that happen in life, we're so sheltered in what we do out there in the field, it seems like we're not even part of the community and what goes on in real life. "And when it hits you like that, some of our players are pretty bothered. They were bothered during the game yesterday, and a couple of them have talked to me about it." Roenicke said he wasn't sure what to say after the 2-1 win, because although he and he players wanted to be happy, that was impossible in light of what happened. Axford, who recorded the win, wasn't in the bullpen when Adcock collapsed, but he said word quickly reached the clubhouse. And although he said he often has to block out other thoughts and worries when pitching, Sunday was a different story. "With something like that, something that tragic, that devastating, it's tough," Axford said. "To go down there knowing that [Adcock] was there earlier and you know the reason he's not there at that particular time in the fourth inning when I get there, it was something completely different to think about." The Milwaukee organization also lost a groundskeeper during the National League Championship Series last season, when longtime department head Gary Vanden Berg died after battling a long-term illness at the age of 59. Earlier this month, Ed Wellskopf, who was a press box host since 1956 when the Braves were still in Milwaukee, died at the age of 87. And much like those deaths, which affected many in the Brewers' clubhouse and throughout Miller Park, Roenicke said the sudden loss of Adcock was a reminder that baseball is secondary to what goes on outside the lines. "I know baseball is important," Roenicke said. "I know it's important to the community; I know it's something that's an outlet for people to come out and enjoy things. But I also realize that it is a game. That's somebody losing their life out there. That's the hard part."
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.