|Late minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh's family visits Rockies|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 19 March 2008 11:23|
Watching her kids giggle as they circled imaginary bases Wednesday, Mandy Coolbaugh couldn't help but smile as the tears trickled down her face.
Her husband, minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh, was killed by a line drive on July 22 as he stood in the first base coach's box.
``It's difficult to be here because he's not here,'' she said on her first visit to Tucson since the accident. ``It's obvious he's gone. But I know I have to do this for my kids. I have to keep them in this environment that they love.''
Five-year-old Joseph and four-year-old Jacob were given the royal treatment by the Colorado Rockies all morning long. The twosome - who share Michael as their middle name - watched batting practice, and then took a tour of the clubhouse, where various Rockies players shook their hands, signed autographs and handed out batting gloves. They left with a bag stuffed with souvenirs.
``It was a very, very emotional day,'' Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said. ``Baseball doesn't seem as important right now as it did at the beginning of the day.''
The visit was tough on Mandy Coolbaugh, who carried her 4-month-old daughter in her arms as she walked around the park, greeting players and coaches. She was overwhelmed by meeting the players, who voted to give a full playoff share to the family during their run to the World Series.
``It's nice to put a face with these guys, and thank them for everything they've done for me and my family,'' said Mandy Coolbaugh, whose sons both threw out the first pitch in Game 3 of the NL division series against Philadelphia. ``It's nice for them to invite my boys back into the situation. Baseball is a big part of their lives. It still is. It's difficult, but they needed this.''
After visiting with the Rockies, she embarked on an even more emotional task - meeting the members of Colorado's Double-A affiliate, the Tulsa Drillers, her husband's former team. Mike Coolbaugh had been hired by Tulsa in early July as an assistant coach.
``Mandy is amazing,'' Drillers athletic trainer Austin O'Shea said. ``She's unbelievable the way she's gone through everything and never weakened.
``We still think about him,'' he continued. ``We have him in our thoughts every day, especially now, coming back to baseball. He was with us for a short time, but he made a big impact on us.''
O'Shea can't shake the accident from his memory. Coolbaugh was struck in the neck by a line drive in the ninth inning against the Arkansas Travelers. He received medical attention on the field, and was rushed to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead almost an hour later.
O'Shea went with Coolbaugh to the hospital and made the initial call to Mandy telling her that there had been an accident.
``I couldn't make the second call,'' O'Shea said. ``I mean ... I couldn't do it.''
He glanced at the ground.
``I truly believe that he wants us to go on,'' O'Shea said. ``He wouldn't want us to stop doing what we're doing. I know that's what he would want. If he were here, that's what he'd be telling us.''
With her sons hitting baseballs off Rockies assistant general manager Bill Geivett in the courtyard, and her infant daughter taking in the sights and sounds, Mandy Coolbaugh said it felt good to be back at the ballpark.
``It's comforting being here because he loved baseball so much,'' she said. ``I do feel like he's all around me here. It's good to introduce this baby girl to this life.''
Mandy Coolbaugh gave birth to their third child on Nov. 2, and struggled with picking out her name.
``Mike named both of our other kids,'' she said.
On the third day in the hospital, a name suddenly popped into her head - Anne Michael.
``I know he helped me do that,'' she said. ``She's named after him. It's a good name.''