The article about the pride that many Montgomery County police officers had in the selection of Florida Marlins left fielder Chris Coghlan as the 2009 National League rookie of the year was accompanied by a photograph of Coghlan with some youth baseball teammates and Coghlan's father, Tim, a former Montgomery County policeman who was a coach of the team. The caption said the photo was taken when the family lived Clearwater, Fla., in 1993. That was incorrect. The 1993 photo is that of a team from Damascus, Md., that Tim Coghlan coached while the family was living in Maryland.
NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan is a big hit with his father's ex-colleagues in Montgomery County
Friday, December 25, 2009
The e-mails were flying fast and furious late this summer -- between the old, grizzled cops hunched over their morning coffee, the ex-SWAT teamers spread across Montgomery County and beyond, anyone who would remember Tim Coghlan and that precocious young boy of his, all those many years ago. There was pride in those e-mails, and there was awe. There was an occasional exclamation point invoked:
Three more hits for Tim Coghlan's kid last night Did you see what Chris's batting average is up to now!!! Don't want to jinx this, but they're saying he might have a shot at Rookie of the Year!
To a large segment of the police community in Montgomery County, at least those who go way back, Tim Coghlan was a brother -- a fallen comrade, a former SWAT team stalwart who was killed in a car accident on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 2001 at the age of 46.
That made Chris Coghlan, rookie left fielder for the Florida Marlins and a former youth-league legend on ballfields across the county, part of the extended family. And if you can't brag on family, well, who can you brag on?
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"Chris has a strong following here," said Drew Tracy, Tim's best friend and SWAT team leader, now the assistant police chief of Montgomery County. "Anyone on the force who knows baseball, knows Chris Coghlan."
The same goes for anyone who knows baseball anywhere, period. That became certain after Coghlan, now 24, made his big league debut on May 8, batted .372 in the second half of the season (higher than anyone in the majors with at least 250 plate appearances), and was voted the National League's rookie of the year last month.
On the day Coghlan got the call telling him he had won the award, one of his first thoughts was of the ex-cop who had taught him most of everything he knew about baseball and about life -- and whose death, in a strange way, had been the pivotal moment in his own life and his own career.
"I just said to myself, 'Thanks, Dad,' " Coghlan recalled. "There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think of him. Every single day, there's a song or a situation or a word that you see that reminds you of him. But as the years pass, and as your grieving goes on, you realize you're able to deal with it. Now, thinking of him just makes me smile.
"When I won the award, my first thought was how thankful I was for the blessings my Lord has given me, and then my second thought was how proud and happy my dad would be."
In Miami, where the Marlins play, and in the Tampa area, where Coghlan went to high school after his family moved there when he was 9, folks rightfully claimed Coghlan as their own. But in Montgomery County, amongst those old cops, there was a small ownership stake in Coghlan's story as well. To them, he was still No. 8 (like seemingly every kid athlete in Maryland in those days, he chose Cal Ripken's number), still the best player on the field.
"We've followed him pretty closely, all his dad's best friends," said John King, a former Montgomery County officer who is now chief of police for Gaithersburg. "We all got excited when we heard he'd made it up to the big leagues, and we followed him in the box scores and on the paper and on 'SportsCenter.'