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Inside Pitch Magazine, Summer 2014

Ground Rules: Seven Years Later, Mike Coolbaugh's Legacy Lives On

By Adam Revelette
Diamond Dreams LogoMike Coolbaugh Diamond Dreams is a non-profit organization 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. On July 22, 2007 while coaching first base for the Tulsa Drillers in the AA Texas League, Mike was struck by a line drive in foul territory and killed instantly.

Texas Rangers scout James Vilade, who also coaches for their AA affiliate Frisco RoughRiders, serves on the Board of Directors for the foundation. In 2007, he and Scott Coolbaugh (Mike's brother) were on the same Frisco coaching staff. After the tragedy, Vilade was approached by the Scott and his wife Susan to help start the organization. "I told them anything I could do to honor Mike's name and promote what the foundation had in mind I would do it," Vilade said. "Our mission is to honor Mike's life, promote safety in game of baseball and do things that help impact people who have suffered a baseball-related loss or tragedy," said Vilade, who helps operate the foundation, direct its scholarship fund, and identify opportunities that relate to the Diamond Dreams mission.

Diamond Dreams has raised money to build safe, state-of-the-art batting cages and practice facilities, provided financial assistance and baseball equipment to others in the baseball community nationwide who have been affected by tragedy, and awarded college scholarships to student-athletes from Mike's high school in San Antonio (Roosevelt H.S.) and Dallas-Fort Worth area high schools. "We're looking for a positive member of the community, a great student and teammate, just someone who has great priorities in life," added Vilade.

There are several other additional programs under the Diamond Dreams umbrella, including the annual Keeper of the Game award (presented on the anniversary – June 22 – of Mike Coolbaugh's death), Mike's Extra Innings, which provides care and assistance to people in the baseball community who have experienced tragedy, and the 'Make it Home Safe' program, which provides equipment for teams that are in need with a focus on helmets and safety.

Vilade, who coaches first base himself, is an avid supporter of base coaches wearing protective helmets, and would like to see the practice adopted at the high school level. "There was a time when batters didn't even wear helmets, and now they do. It only makes sense for high schools to have same rule. It's not an expensive safety measure. One helmet can make a difference."

Vilade expects that Mike's legacy will continue to live on. "It's an honor to work on behalf of the Coolbaugh family and the community of baseball to ensure that we take care of our own. I would tell any young player to be like Mike. The way he carried himself, the way he loved his family, the way he played the game. He played a long time and in the big leagues. He was very focused on family and on education. It's been an honor just to help carry the torch and help ensure all players make it home safely."

Scott Coolbaugh has been a coach in the Texas Rangers organization since 2007. He was the Rangers' major league hitting coach in 2011 and 2012, and is currently the Rangers' minor league hitting coordinator.

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James Vilade is in his 5th season working for the Frisco RoughRiders, AA affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Prior to professional baseball, he spent 12 years at the college level, starting two programs from the ground up (at the University of Dallas and at the University of Texas at Tyler). Vilade accumulated a career record of 348-117, good for a .748 winning percentage that is one of the best marks in the history of NCAA baseball, and the second-best in the history of NCAA baseball in Texas (trails only Cliff Gustafson, the former University of Texas coach). In 2007, Vilade coached the University of Texas at Tyler to a 37-1 record, which is the best single season record in the history of NCAA baseball in Texas and second-best nationwide.

He and his wife Jennifer currently reside in Frisco, Texas with sons Ryan (14) and Trent (6), and daughter McKenzie (11).

Inside Pitch Magazine is published six times per year by the American Baseball Coaches Association, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt association founded in 1945. Copyright American Baseball Coaches Association. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any way without prior written permission. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is impossible to make such a guarantee. The opinions expressed herein are those of the writers.
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