Ensley, FL (near) Mets Baseball Player Killed, Mar 2001
COLE, A TOP METS PROSPECT, KILLED IN DRIVING ACCIDENT.
Pittsburgh, March 31 - BRIAN COLE, a blossoming outfielder who was one of the Mets' top prospects, was killed today while driving from Port St. Lucie, Fla., to his home in Meridian, Miss. He was 22.
COLE was driving home today after the Mets' minor leaguers left training camp. Jay Horwitz, the Mets' vice president for media relations, said a car swerved in front of COLE'S somewhere near the border of Florida and Alabama, and the vehicles collided. COLE'S vehicle flipped over; COLE died shortly thereafter. It was not immediately known if he was alone in the truck.
The Mets were having a team dinner tonight when Steve Phillips, the general manager, took a call from Kevin Morgan, the Mets' minor league director. Phillips told Manager Bobby Vanentine of COLE'S death and the addressed the team.
"It was a festive evening that turned into a tragic night," Horwitz said. "Guys were crying, everyone was upset. I don't think words were spoken."
When the Mets thought of their future, they believed the two prospects they could count on were COLE and Alex Escobar, outfielders who played at Class AA Binghamton last year. COLE was named the Mets' organizational player of the year last season, batting .312 in 91 games at Class A St. Lucie and .278 in 46 games at Binghamton.
He had 69 stolen bases last year and was rated by Baseball America as the Mets' third best prospect, ahead of Timo Perez, Grant Roberts and Tsuyoshi Shinjo.
Pitcher Jerrod Riggan, who played with COLE last summer and in the Arizona Fall League, said it was easy to root for COLE, who was confident without being brash.
"He would come into the clubhouse happy, having a good time coming to the park and playing every day,"
Riggan said. "Just a great all-around person."
COLE was the last player Riggan saw Friday before he left Port St. Lucie for Pittsburgh. They joked about facing each other someday, Riggan telling COLE he would never throw him a fastball - a sign of respect. Tonight, Riggan learned with the rest of the Mets that COLE was dead.
"Everything, just went silent," Riggan said. "Even for people who didn't know him, guys who'd been in the league awhile, it was like a family member dying. Everyone just got up and left."
COLE, at 5 feet 9 and 168 pounds, had surprising power and an ability to drive the ball; he hit 19 homers and rove in 86 runs last year.
A native of Meridian, COLE was an all-state selection in baseball and football for four years at Meridian High School. After a year at a junior college in Texas, COLE signed with the Mets, turning down a football scholarship to Florida State, where he would have been a defensive back.
In a March 5 interview, COLE was asked to describe himself for fans who had never seen him. "I go out and play hard every day," he said.
"Whatever I need to do to help the team win, I try to do that."
New York Times New York 2001-04-01