Epic Carnival | Where Sports and Pop Culture Collide: Is Mike Coolbaugh's Death a Wake-Up Call?

Is Mike Coolbaugh's Death a Wake-Up Call?

by Violent J, TheAngryT

As you are probably aware, a Minor League baseball coach was killed Sunday night by a line drive that struck his head while he was coaching first base. Mike Coolbaugh, 35, was a hitting coach for the Tulsa Drillers, the AA minor league team of the Colorado Rockies.

I am interested to see what, if anything, baseball will do about this. As a former pitcher (although tell that to the Sunday Mexican League I play in), I have had balls lined right back at me that, if I was a split second too slow with my glove, I would’ve taken in the head. A former teammate of mine shattered his thumb last summer when he was pitching in a wood bat summer league and had to have screws inserted, along with months of rehab. I think both my friend and I would both agree that it is just part of the game, and part of being a pitcher. The only real arguments you can make in concerns to player safety is that they have proper coverage in the dugout, and you can also make the case at the younger levels of baseball that wood bats should replace the aluminum/titanium/kryptonite bats that kids are swinging today.

I don’t think you can really change too much about what happens on the field of play. But I do think that there needs to be some major changes involved with what happens outside the lines. Why don’t base coaches wear helmets or some sort of protective gear? Why don’t umpires wear helmets like NHL Referee’s do? Baseball purists will simply say that what happened to Coolbaugh was just a fluke, and to an extent they’re probably right. I can’t remember, outside of Tommy Lasorda pulling an “Andre the Giant falling down” impression, of any coach getting hit by a baseball or bat. However, now it has happened, it’s officially possible that an umpire or base coach can be killed. Knowing that, don’t you have to make a change?

I think the bigger issue that will be addressed is the fans. If a former 17 year minor league baseball player like Coolbaugh can’t get out of the way of a line drive, then I don’t think the 7 year old girl who’s just at the game because its American Girl Doll night at the ballpark stands much of a chance. When Brittanie Cecil was struck and killed by a hockey puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets game, the NHL put up netting above the glass to make sure something like that wouldn’t happen. Did fans complain because the netting obstructed their view? After a 13 year old girl dies in the stands, you didn’t hear too much grumbling about being more cautious with the nets.

Will Minor and Major League Baseball add nets around the foul lines? Or will they wait until someone is killed? There have already been major injuries to fans that were struck with line drive foul balls, and MLB plays that recording before every game warning about foul balls and how you’re watching at your own risk, so they’re asses are covered. Next time your at a ball game and you see the net that covers the fans behind the plate (despite the nets, these are considered amazing seats by the way), look at how close the people just right or left of the net coverage are to home plate. Seeing that, I have no doubt that eventually a fan will be killed at a major league game. That is, unless Mike Coolbaugh’s death is seen as something that will inevitably happen again, and not as a once in a lifetime fluke.

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