Golf cart to bring in relief pitchers is reborn with Diamondbacks

The bullpen car is coming back after being gone for an entire generation of baseball fans.

The Arizona Diamondbacks will use a helmet-clad golf cart for the first time since the vehicle left Major League Baseball more than two decades ago.

"I think it wore out its welcome," Diamondbacks president and CEO Derrick Hall said. "There were these new stadiums, and the focus shifted to the guys running through gates and onto the mound. We think the time is right to bring it back."

Hall said the Diamondbacks purchased two golf carts and had them retrofitted with big caps by SportsKartz, a company in Tampa, Florida.

It's not all for tradition. The Diamondbacks sold a sponsorship to OnTrac, a West Coast courier service, which will receive branding on the vehicles.

"An ancillary benefit might be that it could speed up the game," Hall said. "I expect a lot of teams to follow suit."

The Indians were the first to use a bullpen car -- a "Little Red Wagon" in 1950 -- and by the mid-1960s, much of the league had some sort of transportation for relievers to ride in on.

"Nobody ran in from the bullpen," said Dick Stigman, who pitched for the Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox in the 1960s. "I don't think we could've made it. We all smoked."

Full adoption by most teams took place in the 1970s, and in the '80s, the car was replaced by a golf cart.

Over the years, the bullpen car even caused political controversy. In 1982, a Wisconsin senator got upset that the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen car was a Toyota, which was viewed as a slap in the face to Wisconsinites who worked for Chevrolet.

The Brewers were the last team to use a bullpen cart, in 1995, though it was actually a Harley-Davidson with a sidecar for the pitcher to sit in.

"Everyone was used to watching the carts with the hats on them as a kid," said Diamondbacks bullpen coach Mike Fetters, who pitched for the 1995 Brewers. "I think what happened is that a couple guys who came in on it, got lit up and then it became a superstitious thing to stay off it."

Within a few years, relievers started having entrance songs, including New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who adopted Metallica's "Enter Sandman" in 1999.

Fetters said he thinks today's pitchers will give the bullpen cart a try, though the Diamondbacks won't tell the pitchers what to do.

"Whatever makes them comfortable," he said. "We're not going to force it."

The Diamondbacks' carts will come from the bullpens onto the warning track, head down the first- and third-base lines and stop at the dugout. The pitchers will then make their way to the mound.

MLB's only rule regarding the bullpen cart is that it must be offered equally to both the home and visiting pitchers and that using the cart doesn't grant the pitcher any extra warm-up time.