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  • Helmets for base coaches

    It's been announced that first- and third-base coaches this year will have to wear helmets. Of course this is the policy response to the death of Tulsa Drillers first-base coach Mike Coolbaugh, who died last July after being struck by a hard foul in a Texas League game. Some are not happy about it.

    Also, coaches will have to actually stay in the coaches' boxes, at least until the batted ball passes them.

    I welcome the rule keeping coaches in their boxes. I'd have taken it a step further, and required them to stay in their boxes at all times when the ball is live. (Except for diving out of the way of the hard fouls!) I've found it slightly ridiculous that official boxes are chalked out on the field and many coaches seem to prefer standing anywhere but inside them. I do find it inappropriate when base coaches rush forward so close to the play that they practically become part of it. As for observing fielding positions, well, Connie Mack could do that from the dugout, so I reckon behind the line of the coaches' box affords a fine view.

    The rule on helmets, though, is ill-advised. Like many things in life, baseball can never be made perfectly "safe," at least not without dismantling its essential nature. The rulesmakers' response to the Coolbaugh incident is a nanny-state response, maybe deriving more from public-relations than anything else. (In fact, since Coolbaugh himself was hit below the ear, he could have been wearing a flapless helmet, in accord with this rule, and it wouldn't have made any difference.)

    Some of the coaches have pointed out that umpires are not required to wear helmets. I would add also that pitchers do not wear helmets, and they are in the line of fire from considerably more hard-batted balls than anyone! We can all recall certain terrible injuries to pitchers from batted balls. Some pitchers have had to battle real fears about this. As someone who has been hit by a ball or two, off bats considerably shy of the bigs, I know this is nothing to snicker about. But folks, this is baseball.

    From a fan perspective, though, the worst part of this development is this:
    Everyone seems to agree on one thing: Baseball shouldn't stop at protecting the coaches on the field.

    What about the guys in the dugout? What about the fans sitting in the lower decks? What about the umpires?

    "I know the fans along the foul lines and above the dugouts are pretty exposed," Hill said. "Every year someone gets hit. Every time a ball shoots over the dugout or gets pulled down the line, there's a sick feeling that happens to my stomach, and it's (the same) every single time. Every single time."

    The newer, retro-style ballparks have been designed with much less foul territory, bringing fans closer to the action but also leaving them more vulnerable to line drives that zing into the stands with a split-second's notice. Gallego suggested extending the screen behind home plate down the foul lines.
    No. No! NOOOOOOOO!

    I already have a hard time finding unobstructed-by-netting views at some minor league parks! If this design became standardized--if fans were literally caged-off from the action throughout the leagues--part of the reason for attending games would be lost to me. I go to games to get closer to the action.

    Of course I'm aware of the potential; two times, somebody sitting directly in front of me has been nailed, hard, with a foul ball. One tough lady left to have her cheek and jaw examined, before returning, with a big ice pack, to watch the rest of the game. She got a big cheer from our section. :cap: But considering the number of games I've attended, the fact that this has happened only the twice suggests that it's really not a danger crying out for remedy. While I don't have the data, I suspect that perhaps more people have been injured in car wrecks on their way home from those games I attended. Frankly, the awareness of the (small) danger of the hard fouls for me serves to help keep me in the game, closely attendant upon the action on the field. That's what I want. That's why I'm there.

    Mike Coolbaugh's death was a tragedy, but things happen in baseball, as in life. The appropriate response of the rulemakers, and ballpark staff, is simply to remind everybody to be on their toes when the pitch is delivered. If you're not inclined to follow the game closely, there are plenty of places in the ballpark you can sit and have virtually no chance of being hit with anything. On those occasions when I have my smaller children with me, I too will sit behind the screen.

    I guarantee the base coaches have been on their toes since last July. So should we all. That's enough.
    Last edited by Pere; 02-29-2008, 02:57 AM.

  • #2
    Yeah, I read that earlier yesterday. I think it was Marv Hubbard who said he felt like the batboy......lol

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    • #3
      Coaching the bases - even in Little League - you need to watch out. Coolbaugh wasn't but 35 so it wasn't his reflexes. I've sat in some minor league parks well behind the base coach and I felt that it was dangerous.

      The issue is - is there a downside to wearing helmets? Other than it is something new which will always be greeted with a few complaints - the answer is NO.

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      • #4
        i think wearing those John Olerud helmets would be good enough.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Old Sweater View Post
          Yeah, I read that earlier yesterday. I think it was Marv Hubbard who said he felt like the batboy......lol
          Glenn Hubbard. And, yes, he did say that. I read that in the paper yesterday.
          46 wins to match last year's total

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          • #6
            I don't think it is a bad idea. I have been coaching in the past, and it is hard to watch the ball at the same time when you have to coach a baserunner.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by bkmckenna View Post
              Coaching the bases - even in Little League - you need to watch out. Coolbaugh wasn't but 35 so it wasn't his reflexes. I've sat in some minor league parks well behind the base coach and I felt that it was dangerous.

              The issue is - is there a downside to wearing helmets? Other than it is something new which will always be greeted with a few complaints - the answer is NO.
              i think its a stupid idea. a helmet wouldnt have made any difference anyways last year with coolbaugh.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by bkmckenna View Post
                The issue is - is there a downside to wearing helmets? Other than it is something new which will always be greeted with a few complaints - the answer is NO.

                Same thing could be siad for players on the field or the fans in the first few rows. I think the little kids and the babies should be wearing catchers gear.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Old Sweater View Post
                  Same thing could be siad for players on the field or the fans in the first few rows. I think the little kids and the babies should be wearing catchers gear.
                  Really young kids, and especially babies, don't belong at the ballpark.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by EdTarbusz View Post
                    Really young kids, and especially babies, don't belong at the ballpark.
                    I agree, nothing makes you more nervous then a little kid playing on concrete stairs.

                    As far as the coaches having to wear batting helmets is just another case of the "lightning strike factor" as far as I'm concerned.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by EdTarbusz View Post
                      Really young kids, and especially babies, don't belong at the ballpark.
                      Not in hard-foul territory, no. But the majority of the park doesn't qualify as even a minimal danger zone. As I noted, I wouldn't sit with small children in these areas. But in most parks, these are the best seats for watching the game... if they're not fenced off.

                      Originally posted by bkmckenna View Post
                      Coaching the bases - even in Little League - you need to watch out. Coolbaugh wasn't but 35 so it wasn't his reflexes. I've sat in some minor league parks well behind the base coach and I felt that it was dangerous.
                      I was trying to shy away from ascribing fault to the victim, but if it wasn't reflexes, it might have been attentiveness.

                      Neither a base coach nor a fan behind the dugout is in significant danger if he's paying proper attention. And remote dangers can't be eliminated.

                      Originally posted by Yankeebiscuitfan View Post
                      I don't think it is a bad idea. I have been coaching in the past, and it is hard to watch the ball at the same time when you have to coach a baserunner.
                      Nobody has any business coaching a runner while the pitch is being delivered. That's asking to get drilled.

                      Originally posted by bkmckenna View Post
                      The issue is - is there a downside to wearing helmets?
                      Is there an upside? It is assumed that there is a safety benefit, but since the only casualty among base coaches was one that would not have been prevented, how is the assumed advantage to be judged? Oh, but a future inattentive base coach might get struck higher on the head? An undefinable possibility... if you're going to go there, you might as well require full catchers gear for everyone in the ballpark. I can imagine all kinds of freaky things happening.

                      Come to think of it, better to just call off the game. It's much too dangerous!
                      Last edited by Pere; 02-29-2008, 01:04 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by spark240 View Post
                        Not in hard-foul territory, no. But the majority of the park doesn't qualify as even a minimal danger zone. As I noted, I wouldn't sit with small children in these areas. But in most parks, these are the best seats for watching the game... if they're not fenced off.
                        I don't think small kids belong in a ballpark, period. Mainly because they can be a real impediment to the enjoyment of the people sitting around them. My kid won't be going to the ballpark until he is school age and I know he can sit down and pay attention for a couple of hours.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by EdTarbusz View Post
                          I don't think small kids belong in a ballpark, period. Mainly because they can be a real impediment to the enjoyment of the people sitting around them. My kid won't be going to the ballpark until he is school age and I know he can sit down and pay attention for a couple of hours.
                          If a kid of any age is an impediment to the enjoyment of people around him, the parent's not doing their job. In the case of some of the teenagers I've encountered at ballparks, it's apparent the parents have been slacking for some years prior.

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                          • #14
                            Larry Bowa says he won't wear a helmet, even if they fine him every game.
                            http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-...,4997863.story

                            If Mike Coolbaugh had been hit in the chest, would they have to wear chest protectors instead?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ipitch View Post
                              Larry Bowa says he won't wear a helmet, even if they fine him every game.
                              http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-...,4997863.story
                              Bowa's wearing a helmet today.
                              46 wins to match last year's total

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