November 20, 2019

Helmet Head

College baseball coaches have a different look this spring, thanks to a new rule that mandates wearing a helmet when coaching the bases.  The NCAA passed the rule last September that states “It is required that base coaches wear a helmet. Play will not continue until compliance with this rule is met. It is recommended that the helmet meet NOCSAE standards.”

On July 22, 2007, Tulsa Drillers (Colorado Rockies AA affiliate) first base coach Mike Coolbaugh was hit by a line drive and died an hour later.
The tragedy resulted in Major League Baseball implementing a helmet requirement last season, and the NCAA has followed suit in 2009.  The rule has received a very lukewarm reception from baseball coaches in professional baseball (Larry Bowa at one point said he would pay a fine for all 162 games to keep from wearing the helmet, only to acquiesce when he was told he would be ejected every game he didn’t wear one).  In the college game, a similar response has occurred.

I asked Illinois Wesleyan baseball coach Dennis Martel his opinion of the rule, and he responded as follows:

“Window dressing, in response to a minor league coach getting killed by a line drive that hit his carotid artery.  The helmet does not cover that area as you can see. Who is more vulnerable, a pitcher 53 feet away in a defenseless position or a coach in foul territory 90 feet away in an area that less than 3% of balls are hit in?  You do get used to wearing it though.”

To Martel’s credit, he is complying with the rule (see photo).

It isn’t presently a rule in Illinois at the high school level.  At least not yet.

Photo:  Illinois Wesleyan baseball coach Dennis Martel as he heads to third base in a game against Millikin.  Credit:  Jeff Findley

posted 02 April 2009

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