Angelos pledges aid to K. Bechler

Contribution by owner is significant, Beattie says


February 21, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Steve Bechler's widow might have a hard time collecting a large premium from Major League Baseball's life insurance policy, but she will get a significant contribution from Orioles owner Peter Angelos, Jim Beattie, the club's executive vice president, said yesterday.

Steve Bechler, a 23-year-old Orioles pitching prospect, died Monday after collapsing at Sunday's practice and suffering heatstroke. His widow, Kiley Bechler, 22, is expecting the couple's child in April.

"Mr. Angelos has stepped up financially to help in this situation," said Beattie, who declined to specify the amount. "He has been great with respect to that, not only paying for all their expenses here, flying them in, but also financially after that."

Beattie has served as the Orioles' point man in trying to help with Kiley Bechler's financial situation, and it has been a complicated process because Steve Bechler acquired just 27 days of major-league service time.

Under the old collective bargaining agreement, Bechler would have needed 60 days of service time to qualify for Major League Baseball's life insurance, which pays $300,000 for death from an illness and $600,000 for death from an accident.

The new agreement, which took effect Sept. 1, covers every player on a major-league 40-man roster, so Bechler would qualify, but as has been the case with past agreements, the new benefits don't take effect until April 1.

"We have a situation that falls in the cracks," Beattie said.

Though it's wouldn't have been as significant, Bechler would have needed 43 days of service time to qualify for Major League Baseball's pension plan. But pending a government investigation into the death, the Bechlers could be eligible for workers' compensation benefits.

Beattie said he's also looking into setting up a trust fund for Kiley Bechler.

"I've already talked to some people I know in baseball, and they said, `Just tell us, we'll send her some money,' " Beattie said. "So maybe you don't get millions of dollars, but a couple hundred thousand dollars here, a couple hundred thousand there, and pretty soon you're talking real money that could help a young woman with a young baby survive."

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