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Posted at 10:46 AM ET, 03/10/2011

Luis Salazar incident underscores baseball's dangers for Jim Riggleman

By Adam Kilgore

salazar.jpg

Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman once worked in the Dodgers organization alongside Luis Salazar, the Braves coach who frighteningly absorbed a line drive in the face yesterday. "First class," Riggleman said. "He's a great man. Just a solid baseball guy. Everybody loves Sally."

Today, Salazar is recovering at an Orlando hospital, and he apparently avoided significant brain damage. But it was a scary moment, the kind that makes you thankful it doesn't happen more often, but also wonder how it doesn't happen more often, particularly with fans sitting close who are not protected by the screen behind home plate.

"I'll tell you what, I'm amazed," Riggleman said. "And it scares me to death to see somebody take a very young child, sometimes infant children, not behind that net and not way up there. When something comes at you, your first instinct is back, not cover that child. By the time you cover that child, that line drive has already hit him."

When Riggleman managed at Wrigley Field, the stands around the dugout were especially close to the playing field. If Riggleman or a member of his staff noticed a young child close to the railing, they would alert security and try to have them moved behind the protective netting.

Despite his concern, Riggleman did not advocate for more protection in the dugout for players. They typically lean on the screen already in place in order to see the game unobstructed, anyway. "To add more now, players are going to do something where they're going to get visual clearance to see what's happening," Riggleman said. "They're not going to be looking through that very long."

The dangers inherent to baseball are many. Riggleman expressed concern about third base coaches, who are particularly susceptible to line drives when there is a runner on second base who they have to watch. If there is a line drive in their direction, "the ball has to miss you," Riggleman said. "You can't get out of the way."

Riggleman also worries about an overlooked safety issue - batboys scurrying after foul balls and bats as a hitter swings on deck.

"The thing that scares more than anything is batboys," Riggleman said. "Not only getting hit by foul balls, but running into a swing. And it's happened. ... We tell our kids, 'Look go way around [the on-deck hitter], because you never know when he's going to take that extra swing. But they forget."

By Adam Kilgore  | March 10, 2011; 10:46 AM ET
 
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Comments

I remember when Jim was with the Dodgers coaching staff and he took a bat to the face when someone warmed up.

Yep, it can be a contact sport.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | March 10, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

This is an issue that has to be addressed by teams and leagues (major and minor).

It's not only the screamers, but the bats as well (broken or not). Fans need to be protected behind the dugout and up to 1B and 3B: it's just a matter of time before netting goes up, and rather sooner than later. Do we have to wait for multiple tragedies to occur before netting goes up?

We've always sat behind the dugout, but starting last year we've moved down the line: I just couldn't be sure that I could protect my children.

At PNats games, we'll sit down the line 1 or 2 sections past the dugout, and the children sit to the OF side of me while I wear a glove. We talk about what to do should a ball come our way, and should I need to leave to purchase food, they move to higher levels. And it's not only the batted balls: it's also errant throws from the IFs during pre-inning warm-ups and the game.

Crazy cautious? Not at all.

Posted by: joemktg1 | March 10, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Took four young boys to a Baysox game and sat front row just beyond first base. I was stressed every minute of that game, had to be paying attention to my left (home plate) every pitch and to my right (4 goofy energetic young 'uns) in between every pitch. Never again.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 10, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Welcome to baseball. It's a non-contact sport, except when it isn't. What everyone needs to remember is that when contact happens, it's violent, very dangerous, and quite unexpected.

I can't tell folks how many times I've had to move coaches and players back to a place of safety. In watching the ST games, I watch the managers & coaches sitting on chairs, on the field, just like HS coaches sit on ball buckets. At least in HS, the umpires can force the coaches and any players back to safety. But, that's OK, 'cause this isn't HS. Hey, wait, this isn't HS. These players are bigger, stronger, throw faster, and hit much harder.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | March 10, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Always get a chuckle when baseball haters (aka Football fans) talk about the passivity of the game. Yeah right..., spend 9 innings sitting within 20 feet of a batter with no protection from foul balls, flying bats or bad throws from infielders. How many times in a 162 game season do we see players diving for cover in the dugout, or bats flying thru the air, and of course those screaming liners down the lines arcing into the lower bowel. Hard to imagine that back in the 20's and 30's the camera guys actually stood only a few feet off the plate, the batters had no helmets and the dugouts had no screens.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 10, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Always get a chuckle when baseball haters (aka Football fans) talk about the passivity of the game. Yeah right..., spend 9 innings sitting within 20 feet of a batter with no protection from foul balls, flying bats or bad throws from infielders. How many times in a 162 game season do we see players diving for cover in the dugout, or bats flying thru the air, and of course those screaming liners down the lines arcing into the lower bowel. Hard to imagine that back in the 20's and 30's the camera guys actually stood only a few feet off the plate, the batters had no helmets and the dugouts had no screens.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 10, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

(excerpted from CBS news site)

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark., July 23, 2007

Minor League Coach Killed By Line Drive
Former Brewer, Cardinal Mike Coolbaugh Dies After Being Struck By Foul Ball

(CBS/AP) Tulsa Drillers coach Mike Coolbaugh died Sunday night after being struck in the head by a line drive as he stood in the first-base coach's box during a Texas League game with the Arkansas Travelers, police said.

The game was suspended in the ninth inning after the 35-year-old Coolbaugh was struck by a hard-hit foul ball off the bat of Tino Sanchez and taken to Baptist Medical Center-North Little Rock.
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According to a report on the Drillers' Web site late Sunday, Coolbaugh was knocked unconscious and CPR was administered to him on the field.
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Sgt. Terry Kuykendall, spokesman for North Little Rock police, said Coolbaugh was still alive when he was put in an ambulance, but stopped breathing as the ambulance arrived at the hospital.

"They tried to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead at 9:47 p.m.," Kuykendall said.
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Coolbaugh is survived by his wife, Mandy, and two young sons, Joseph and Jacob, all of San Antonio. Mandy Coolbaugh is expecting another child in October.

Posted by: bertbkatz | March 10, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm currently reading the book about Mike Coolbaugh. It is a danger of the game that is not often discussed.

Posted by: BigRick65 | March 10, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

"NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark., July 23, 2007

Minor League Coach Killed By Line Drive
Former Brewer, Cardinal Mike Coolbaugh Dies After Being Struck By Foul Ball"

And this would be the reason we see first and third base coaches in major and minor league baseball wearing batting helmets today. Before this, they didn't.

Posted by: FeelWood | March 10, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

those screaming liners down the lines arcing into the lower bowel.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 10, 2011 12:18 PM

In an otherwise serious subject, this gave me a good laugh....nice typo :)

Posted by: RPrecupjr | March 10, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

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