Those of you familiar with Major League Baseball are probably also familiar with the tragedy that befell Mike Coolbaugh and his family this past summer when he was struck in the head and killed by a foul ball down in Tulsa. There was some feel-good press about it during the playoffs when it was announced that a full player share of the Rockies' playoff bonus (some two to three hundred thousand dollars) would go to his widow, but it settled into the background after a while.
Now the event is coming back into play, with teams hitting the spring exhibition schedule and coaches experiencing first-hand the new MLB mandate that all base coaches must wear batting helmets when on the field. The reason it has surfaced this week is a report of extremely mixed reviews thus far, not unlike the goofy composite ball in the NBA.
Actually, the reviews aren't entirely mixed. There are those among the league's coaches who understand the need for it, but none of them seem particularly enthused about it. Among the most vocal have been Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa and Detroit Tigers first base coach Andy Van Slyke, who have referred to the idea as "cumbersome" and "unnecessary." Bowa even went so far as to say "I'll write a check for 162 games if I have to to avoid wearing it."
It's hard to tell how much of an attitude like Bowa's is just him popping off at the mouth or whether he is actually brazen enough to do something like that, but I can understand where Bowa is coming from with his sentiment.
Let's start back towards the beginning. Yes, what happened to Mike Coolbaugh was tragic, is something you never want to see, and would like to prevent if you can. However, it's called a 'freak accident' for a reason. Being able to prevent an incident similar to Coolbaugh's is roughly equivalent to leaving the batting cages up for games so that Randy Johnson doesn't kill any more pigeons.
Okay, that's a bit of a reach, so I'll try a different example. Remember back in 2002, when a young girl at a Columbus Blue Jackets game was struck in the temple by a stray puck and eventually died later on at the hospital? That was an isolated, unlikely-to-ever-happen-again incident that was as much the fault of the crowd as it was anybody else (though that's another story). The NHL took action, even though they didn't really have to, and I applaud what they did. The nets the league has mandated since then have been perfect - they have nearly completely eliminated the threat that they were supposed to, and have done so without creating any new problems.