One of the first times I met Kevin Hickey he ripped on me.
And I mean ripped on me.
As only Kevin could in his unfiltered take no prisoner's style.
When I heard of his passing on Wednesday it brought back memories from almost 20 years ago when we worked for the Baysox, the AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.
I had moved out to Baltimore from the Midwest to take an internship with the team. I had never lived outside of the region before and adjusting to east coast culture wasn't going very well.
Despite our rocky start, once Kevin found out that I went to college in the Chicagoland area and had actually lived in the city, his demeanor changed. We developed a friendship.
Not being a Chicago native and nor a White Sox fan, I never heard about Kevin until I started working with him.
What struck me most about the "Hickman" was that the persona he presented in public was nothing like his core self. Once he allowed you inside, you saw the bluster for what it was---bluster.
He was all of those things that he allowed people to see; a talker, a bullshitter, a proud south sider and a quintessential baseball man. Yet when I knew him he was fiercely devoted to his girls & wife. He often spoke of issues and matters that you wouldn't expect him to care about.
Or at least he would with me.
He had a much more cerebral and nurturing side that he chose not to exhibit while guys were around, but I was glad to keep what we discussed between us.
He did, after all, have an image to maintain.
He also had many stories to tell. Most of which are unprintable. All of them politically incorrect and laugh out loud funny.
I was forever ridiculed for being a Cubs' fan and never setting foot in the old Comiskey Park. He thought the later was an abomination.
Our ways parted when I left my job and the east coast and moved back home.
I didn't know about Kevin's troubles---both personal and financial---until I read of them in his obituaries.
I did hear that he was back with the White Sox, but I never reached out. I regret that I never made the effort.
When the word spread of his passing, my former Baysox colleagues and I were sharing memories on Facebook. A classic story came up:
"He really pissed Mike Piazza off during the Home Run Derby at the All Star game at Camden Yards by throwing him curves, sliders and off speed pitches instead of lollipops."
That was Kevin, never giving an inch.
He did us proud, Chicago.