July 23rd, 2013
On July 22, 2007, former big leaguer Mike Coolbaugh tragically lost his life after getting struck in the head by a line drive in foul territory while coaching first base for the Tulsa Drillers. Mike’s brother Scott Coolbaugh, hitting coach for the Round Rock Express and former ‘Riders coach, started the Diamond Dreams organization in 2009 to honor Mike and his contributions to baseball and to advance Mike’s passion for the game and helping others.
Yesterday at the Frisco RoughRiders- Midland RockHounds game, on the sixth anniversary of Mike’s passing, Mason Hairston, 2013 recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Diamond Dreams Scholarship, threw out the first pitch of the game.
‘Riders first base coach and scout James Vilade was called to be on the board of directors for the non-profit. In 2007, James was on the Frisco staff in his first year coaching professional baseball with former pitching coach Terry Clark, current Rangers first base coach Dave Anderson and Scott Coolbaugh.
“Scott and I became good friends, and he asked me to become involved in an organization that was going to honor Mike’s life called Diamond Dreams,” Vilade said. “I was the first person that Scott called to ask to be on the board of directors. I obliged and told him anything I could do to honor Mike’s name and promote what the foundation had in mind I would do it. Diamond Dreams was born, and our main goal is to honor Mike’s life and promote safety in the game of baseball, and also impact people that have had a tragedy or tough times in the game.”
Diamond Dreams is a non-profit that honors the memory of Mike Coolbaugh by promoting safety in the game of baseball and providing support to members of the baseball community in need. The organization holds multiple programs that promote Mike’s legacy. “Mike’s Extra Innings” provides care and assistance to people in the baseball community who have experienced tragedy. The “Make it Home Safe” program provides equipment for teams that are in need, focusing on helmets and other safety equipment. “The Keeper of the Game” award is given out annually to someone who embraces the baseball community and has the priority of helping people in need. It was just announced that Jamey Newberg was this year’s recipient for his many contributions to the community and people in need.
The organization also honors two scholarship winners each year, one from Roosevelt High School where Mike went to school, and one local DFW school student. The recipients are individuals who stand for the organization’s beliefs: community-minded, someone who embraces their community.
During the ‘Riders game on July 22, the six-year anniversary of Mike’s accident, this years scholarship winner, Mason Hairston from Plano West High School, threw out the first pitch.
“Mason is just really well-deserving of this scholarship. He carries himself well, plays baseball, does things in the community, and goes the extra mile. The ‘Riders allowing him to come out here and be a part of what we do with the organization every day is just special,” James said.
The RoughRiders’ front office, led by president and general manager Scott Sonju, makes community a priority in everything they do, and have supported Diamond Dreams since its founding.
“Scott [Sonju] made it very clear after the tragedy of Mike Coolbaugh that anyway that he and the ‘Riders could help, it would be done,” James said. “From top to bottom, the generosity and the care and helping us perpetuate Mike’s name has honored the game through nights like last night on the anniversary of his passing. It’s been a great extension of our foundation. The ‘Riders have blessed the organization.”
Because of Mike’s accident, all fielding coaches in professional baseball are now required to wear helmets. In the early stages , coaches were resistant to the change, but every single person embraces this need for safety.
“I’m glad the rule is in place. Unfortunately we lost a great man in baseball, but we are doing everything we can to honor him. I coach first base, and Mike is almost always the first thing I think about stepping onto the field.”
“For me, it’s, number one, an honor to work on behalf of the Coolbaugh family, and the community of baseball to ensure that we takes care of our own,” James said. “I would tell any young player to be like him, the way Mike carried himself, the way he loved his family, the way he played the game. Mike played a long time and had the opportunity to play in the big leagues. He was very focused on family, very focused on education. It’s been an honor just to help carry the torch and help ensure all players make it home safely.”