Bucs base coaches support helmet rule
League mandate levied after death of Minors coach Coolbaugh
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Pirates first-base coach Lou Frazier and third-base coach Tony Beasley may disagree on the implementation of a new rule that requires base coaches to wear helmets on the field, but don't expect there to be any controversy coming out of the Pirates clubhouse.
The first-year rule has been met with varying responses and criticism across baseball this week. Arguably, none of that disapproval was more notable than that which came from Dodgers third-base coach Larry Bowa, who recently said that he would rather pay 162 fines than wear a helmet during the season.
Don't count on Beasley or Frazier following Bowa's lead and boycotting the helmet. Both have said that they are more than willing to comply.
"When you see something like what happened last year, that's sad," Frazier said. "They are looking out for our protection. I really don't have a problem with it."
Beasley's response was much of the same.
"I'm not going to defy it. Whatever the rules are, I'll comply," the third base coach said. "I can understand Major League Baseball having a concern and them wanting to take action and do something about it. Their main concern is making sure we are safe. I'm going to comply to the rules and do what's expected of me."
The rule was adopted at the annual General Manager's Meetings in November in response to the death of Mike Coolbaugh last season. Coolbaugh, a first-base coach with Double-A Tulsa in the Colorado Rockies' organization, was hit below the ear on a line drive off the bat of Drillers catcher Tino Sanchez. Coolbaugh later died at the hospital.
However, where Beasley and Frazier -- both of whom are in their first seasons coaching at the Pirates' Major League level -- differ in opinion is concerning the mandatory aspect of the rule.
Frazier sides with the general managers, and his argument is a legitimate one. The reality of Coolbaugh's death, coupled with the number of instances in which he's seen base coaches hit or nearly hit by line drives, is enough to warrant a blanket rule.
"You hear some guys complain, but when the day is over, it's just done to protect us," said Frazier, who was a base coach in the Minor Leagues before joining the Pirates' organization in November. "We're in a position where we're not able to see the ball. We have to watch the baserunner. It's better to be safe than sorry."
Beasley, on the other hand, would have preferred that the ruling had simply remained a recommendation and not mandatory.
"To me it's like wearing a seatbelt," he explained. "You know, some people believe in a seatbelt and some don't. Some believe that if you're in a car accident and it jams, you can't get it off. So it's a double-edged sword."
However, Beasley did concede one thing. Making it optional to wear helmets, the third-base coach said, is essentially ignoring the need for change.
"The game's been going on for over 100 years and we've had only one incident," Beasley started, "but I can understand on the part of Major League Baseball wanting to do it. If you leave it optional, then probably no one is going to do it."
Neither coach has chosen to wear helmets with ear flaps, citing the need for there to be minimal obstruction when trying to hear. MLB left ear flaps optional.
More than anything, both coaches commented, it still seems odd to look out on the field and see coaches donning helmets. Oh, and it takes some getting used to.
"The only trouble is that it's a little bit too big, just like when you wear a hat for the first time," Frazier joked. "But I think it's good."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.