Umpire Wally Bell dies at age 48

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Sad news coming out of Ohio on Monday night: Wally Bell, who just finished working the Cardinals-Pirates NLDS series last week, has passed away of an apparent heart attack, according to the Youngtown Vindicator.

“One on my dearest friends,” fellow umpire John Hirschbeck told Youngstown’s WFMJ. “We worked together for 11 years. He was like to a son to me, my wife Denise, very dear friend. It’s devastating. Wally was one of the first to call me and congratulate me on working the World Series.”

Bell had spent 21 years as a major league ump, handling one World Series, four LCSs and seven LDSs. According to his MLB.com bio, his proudest moment as a major league ump was returning to the field following open heart surgery in 1999.

“All of us at Major League Baseball are in mourning tonight regarding the sudden passing of Wally Bell,” said commissioner Bud Selig in a statement. “I always enjoyed seeing Wally, who was a terrific umpire and such an impressive young man. On behalf of our 30 clubs, I extend my deepest condolences to Wally’s family, fellow umpires and his many friends throughout the game.”

Bell was behind the plate for Game 2 of last week’s NLDS game in St. Louis, a 6-1 win for the Pirates. He was never involved in any major controversies, which alone suggests he did his job pretty well.

According to Wikipedia, he leaves behind two children.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.