|Late minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh's young sons throw out first pitch|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 06 October 2007 16:11|
Jake and Joey Coolbaugh, the young sons of Colorado Rockies minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh, who was killed by a line drive on July 22, trotted out to the mound with their uncle, Scott Coolbaugh, and bounced their pitches in front of home plate.
The crowd gave them as much applause as when the Rockies took the field.
Mike Coolbaugh's Tulsa Drillers jersey was hung in the Rockies' dugout. Earlier this week, Rockies players voted to give a full playoff share to the family.
``The Coolbaughs have a special place in our hearts,'' Colorado GM Dan O'Dowd said Saturday night before Game 3 of the NL Division Series with Philadelphia. ``And they always will. I'm sure Mike's up there and has got a lot to do with what's happening to our club right now.''
Coolbaugh, a first base coach for the Rockies' Double-A affiliate, was killed when a line drive struck him in the neck.
His two sons, 5-year-old Joey and 3-year-old Jake, walked out to the mound in Rockies uniforms with their dad's name and number (29) on the back.
``I'm throwing a fastball,'' Joey said before the game.
``Not me. I'm throwing a curveball,'' Jake countered.
Coolbaugh's wife, Mandy, was supposed to be in attendance, but couldn't make it because she's due to give birth to the couple's third child this month.
Instead, Coolbaugh's brother, Scott, who also played in the majors, flew in from Hawaii, where he coaches the West Oahu CaneFires in the Hawaiian Winter League.
``I can't say enough about the Rockies organization,'' said Scott Coolbaugh, who also serves as a hitting coach for the Texas Rangers' Double-A affiliate, the Frisco RoughRiders. ``They've been tremendous through the whole ordeal.''
Scott Coolbaugh watched his nephews hop around from chair-to-chair and run up and down the aisles in a media room before the game, and grinned at their endless energy.
``You know, he didn't live for baseball. He loved baseball, but he lived for those boys,'' Scott Coolbaugh said. ``He was a family man who enjoyed being in baseball. But he really enjoyed being with those two boys.''
O'Dowd said he learned of the players' voting the playoff share while thumbing through paperwork and saw Coolbaugh's name.
``I started almost crying,'' O'Dowd said. ``It was very emotional for me. It really went to the core of the character we've worked so hard to bring to this organization.''
``It wasn't meant to be a big deal,'' pitcher Josh Fogg said. ``It was a tragic thing to happen. We're trying to remember him the best way we can.''
The memory of that day still haunts Scott Coolbaugh. It took him almost a week to step back into the first-base coaching box again.
``That first day, I didn't know what to do or how to stand,'' Scott Coolbaugh said. ``I was in a daze for the first couple games. Then I got into a comfort level.''
Now, he doesn't even come close to standing in the coach's box. He's way down the first-base line.
``I don't know the circumstances of how it all happened (with Mike), and I've never wanted to know,'' he said. ``I try to take precautionary deals when I'm out there. I move back farther.''
He doesn't wear a helmet, however.
``People talk about helmets and this and that, but I don't know if it's a discussion,'' he said. ``I don't know if a helmet would've protected him or not. He was hit in the artery that was below the ear.
``I just try to utilize as much room as possible. There's no need for me to be up that close.''
Scott Coolbaugh paused.
``I run through scenarios almost day - what could we have done different or what could I have told him different?'' he said. ``There's a reason for it. We just don't know what that reason is yet.''