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.Of course since he's Larry Bowa his objections skew a bit weird ("They talk about delay of game, and when the helmet falls off, you'll have to stop the game") but his overall point -- that there are many more people on the field in greater danger from hit balls than the base coaches -- is a good one.
As I said when they announced the rule back in November, one of the reasons Mike Coolbaugh's death was so shocking was because nothing like that had ever happened before, and that it hadn't happened before is a testament to how little actual danger the base coaches are actually in. And remember, the ball that killed Coolbaugh hit him in the back of his neck below his ear. A helmet would have been unlikely to save him.
I think if a coach were to lodge a quiet, under-the-radar protest by simply not wearing the helmet and hoping no one notices, MLB might have let it slide or offered only nominal fines. Since this is Larry Bowa spouting off about it in front of a bunch of reporters, however, they're likely to crack down now.