Monday was a sad day for my family and me. Mike Coolbaughs tragic death hit very close to home. I got the news of Mike’s death early Monday morning in my hotel room in Cincinnati.
I knew Mike only a little. We are connected mostly through our families. The Coolbaugh’s are from San Antonio and I’ve known them for over fifteen years. Mike’s sister, Lisa, and my wife, Michele, taught school together and are still very close friends. Mike’s brother, Scott, also a former Major Leaguer, is a coach in the Texas Rangers organization with my brother. Scott and my brother have been friends for years, even playing together in Korea.
For a few years, when I lived in San Antonio, I spent a lot of time with Mike Coolbaugh. He was part of a group of pro ballplayers I used to throw batting practice to and hang out with in the winter.
Most of Mike’s 17 years in baseball were spent in the minor leagues. He stuck it out for twelve years before he finally got his big league chance as a twenty-nine- year-old in 2001. The Brewers gave him that chance. His stay didn’t last long. But, he made it. Even if you don’t remember Mike in Milwaukee, it doesn’t change the fact that his greatest baseball moment came as a Brewer. Mike belted his first career Major League home run in Miller Park in 2001. On July 17, with two outs in the 9th inning, Mike went deep against John Garland and the White Sox. It went down as another Brewers loss but for Mike and his family, the realization of a lifelong dream. When he hit that homerun, his entire family cried (even his Dad and brother, though they don’t admit it) . Mike had officially joined his big bro as Major Leaguer.
Mike’s last year in the Majors was 2002. He kept on playing, only this year, traded his dream of once again playing in the Big Leagues, for the chance to one day coach in the Big Leagues. He was hired by the Rockies as the Double-A Hitting Coach July 3rd – which means he pretty much spent everyday of his life as a ballplayer.
To most around the country he’s now a headline. Water cooler material. The coach that was killed by a line drive. But, I want you to know that he was a great guy. Quiet, unassuming and a pro’s pro. He was a great family man and father. He leaves behind two young boys and his wife, Mandy, is six months pregnant. His sister, Lisa, is also pregnant. I tell you all of this because I want you to know a little more about who he was and what he left behind. Whether it’s through the Brewers or through me, you’re connected to Mike and his family.
Here’s the Journal Sentinel’s account of Mike’s first day in the Big League’s with the Brewers…written by Tom Haudricourt: Click here.
If you care to make a donation to the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund,Click here
To make an impact on the Coolbaugh’s, pray for them…and connect the name in the story to the man and his family.