Pujols steps up for Coolbaugh family
Cards slugger donates money for annual memorial dinner
Baseball is often thought of as a large extended family by those who are involved in it. So when Albert Pujols found out there was a part of that family in need, he didn't hesitate to act.
This Saturday is the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Tournament. For those who don't remember the story, Coolbaugh is the former player and coach who was killed by a foul ball while coaching first base in 2007. The annual event raises funds for Coolbaugh's family -- he left behind his wife, Mandy, and three children -- as well as for beginning an effort by the Coolbaughs to help children who have lost a family member.
At the last minute, a sponsor to pay for the dinner at the event backed out. Enter Pujols to the rescue. When Josh Goldberg, the Director of Public Relations for Pujols' agency, Beverly Hills Sports Council, approached the All-Star first baseman about the issue, he immediately remembered Coolbaugh -- the two played together in St. Louis in 2002 -- and donated well above what was needed to cover the cost of the dinner.
"Something from a Roberto Clemente Award winner shouldn't surprise anyone," Goldberg said. "But it still somehow does."
Pujols won the Clemente Award in 2008, honored for the work he's done with his foundation. Pujols puts on over 30 events a year for kids with Down Syndrome, including a golf tournament that raises over $350,000. He also makes annual trips to the Dominican Republic to help impoverished families and orphans with medical care and supplies.
So stepping up and helping the Coolbaugh family is right in character, as is Pujols' desire not to make too big of a deal out of any of his charity work. The Coolbaugh family, however, would like to make a very big deal out of it.
"It's important for people to know, to know that as big as Albert Pujols is, as much as he has, he can still do something like this that makes such a difference," said an appreciative Mandy Coolbaugh. "This stuff doesn't make the headlines. And it should. It makes regular people want to be good people as well.
"I think anyone can feed off that. If we saw all the good athletes continually do, I think it would make people strive to do positive things as well. It might not be as big as what Pujols can do, but small things count, too."
Ever since Mike Coolbaugh died, the family has been amazed time and time again about how the baseball community has reached out a helping and supporting hand. Whether it's been financially or via donations for Saturday's silent auction, the Coolbaughs have a hard time expressing their appreciation for all that baseball has done on their behalf.
"We have been so touched by the baseball world," said Mike's cousin, Cheryl Coolbaugh, who is organizing Saturday's event. "Everybody has reached out to us. We have found out baseball is truly a family. The values in baseball are truly incredible. They pull on your heartstrings, everything they do. It just goes to show how wonderful everybody in baseball really is. We are truly grateful."
"It's absolutely amazing," Mandy Coolbaugh echoed. "When you have a tragedy like Mike's death, you see a lot of good that comes out of people. You see what their true character is made of. It's amazing what people do when they hear Mike's name. He keeps getting spoken about in such a good way. That's what I have to give to my kids. I can't ask for more than that."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.