Friday, May 09, 2008

Hard Hat Area: Coaching Boxes, And It's A Good Thing

At first blush, MLB's directive to have all base coaches wear batting helmets during games might seem overkill -- an overreaction to the tragic death last summer of minor league first base coach Mike Coolbaugh, who was struck in the skull by a batted ball and died. I know some coaches were very resistant, i.e. the Yankees' Larry Bowa, who felt their rights were being infringed upon. Plus, the helmets are probably considerably less comfy than a regular cap. I get all that.

It's also tempting to say, "Why the fuss? Coolbaugh's case was one in a million. It's unlikely to ever happen again."

But really, when you think of it, I'm surprised that it hasn't happened MORE often.

Mike Coolbaugh

Base coaches aren't exactly the picture of lean, mean physiques. It's hard enough to evade a line drive, even when you're young and agile. Sometimes you just get frozen. So if you're in your late-40s, early-50s, and are carrying some junk in the trunk ... get my drift?

Think back to the (thankfully) comic image of a retired Tommy Lasorda in the All-Star game several years ago. Coaching third base, Lasorda ended up on his rear end trying to avoid a bat that slipped out of someone's hands. That was a bat -- t
raveling considerably slower. What if that had been a ball heading Tommy's way? You think he'd have a prayer of avoiding it?

Granted, the likelihood is still slim that what happened to Coolbaugh will happen again anytime soon, but I still think we're amazingly lucky that it hasn't happened before, several times over, throughout baseball history. Seems that donning a helmet isn't that big of a deal, to help ensure that tragedy doesn't strike again.

Besides, that Bowa always was a truculent little rascal.


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