VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Many base coaches are unhappy with the new rule mandating helmets in reaction to the death last year of Minor League coach Mike Coolbaugh, who was struck by a line drive while coaching first base.
Count Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa among the objectors. Bowa did not wear a helmet during the Dodgers' Grapefruit League opener Thursday against the Braves, the first time he was required by rule to do so.
"That's not for me," said Bowa, a former player and manager in the Major Leagues in his first year with the Dodgers. "My question is, how can I be in the league 40 years and the league says who wears a helmet and who doesn't? One guy got killed and I'm sorry it happened. But bats break and they can be a deadly weapon. Do something about bats.
"Umpires get hit with line drives. I've probably seen 50 of them get hit. If coaches have to wear helmets, umpires should. I'll sign a waiver. And there should be a grandfather clause. These are very cumbersome. They talk about delay of game, and when the helmet falls off, you'll have to stop the game. It should be an option. I know I'm talking for a lot of guys who won't say anything. I'll write a check for 162 games if I have to to not wear it."
Bowa wore a protective liner inside his soft cap -- he said it was uncomfortable -- but no helmet; there are no indications he'll be allowed to avoid wearing a helmet going forward. Dodgers first-base coach Mariano Duncan also did not wear a helmet during Thursday's game, but he's expected to be donning a helmet going forward as well.
Based on a rule adopted at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., last November, all Major League and Minor League base coaches must wear at least the standard batting helmet, with or without earflaps. That part of it is an individual choice. But a helmet is required as of the beginning of exhibition games.
Coolbaugh was killed while coaching first base for Colorado's Double-A Tulsa affiliate last July 22. In a game at Arkansas, Coolbaugh was hit below the ear and knocked unconscious by a line drive off the bat of Tulsa's Tino Sanchez. Coolbaugh was taken to Baptist Medical Center-North Little Rock, Ark., where he died. He was 35.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.