Professional Sports

Twins hire Japanese athletic trainer Masa Abe


Article reposted from SB Nation Twinkie Town
Author: myjah

The Twins recently made a slew of minor league coaching changes, but one new hire in particular piqued my interest: Masa Abe.

Abe, 39, was hired as the organization’s new assistant MLB trainer. If you couldn’t tell from the name, yes, he’s Japanese. He was born in Aiehi, Japan, and attended high school there before coming to the US to attend University of Northern Colorado. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Athletic Training in 2007, Abe went on to earn a master’s degree in biomechanics from Louisiana State University.

As far as his professional career goes, Abe’s always worked in baseball. He joined the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and has been moving up the minor league system as an athletic trainer. Last season he served as the Athletic Trainer for the Triple-A Reno Aces, where he was responsible for the care of over 60 different players, including four big leaguers on rehab assignment. His efforts apparently did not go unnoticed, as he was named the Pacific Coast League Trainer of the Year! Apparently, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) gives an award to the top trainer in each of the 16 minor leagues baseball leagues every year, which is something I’ve never heard of before being a Minnesota Twins fan. As the winner of the award in the PCL, Abe is now in the running for the 2017 Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year award, which will be announced during baseball’s upcoming Winter Meetings.

It’s probably obvious why this new hire caught my eye: he’s Japanese, and the Twins have been rumored to be pursuing Japanese stars Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani. Obviously there is no way of telling whether this is at all related to those pursuits, but having a athletic trainer who speaks Japanese doesn’t seem like it would hurt — particularly in Ohtani’s case, since teams have to actively convince him that their organization is a good fit. In fact, former Mariners front office executive Tony Blengino was recently on Fangraphs’ Effectively Wild podcast to talk about the memo Ohtani asked each team to write about themselves, and he believes several of the questions Ohtani asked were specifically aimed at finding out how teams treated rehab and injuries.

Professional Sports

Part-time Pro: Michigan High School Athletic Trainer works occasionally with Bengals


Article reposted from The Daily News


Jon Jungwirth, right, watches a replay alongside Cincinnati Bengals Ryan Hewitt during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth, an athletic trainer from Iron Mountain, Mich., worked as an athletic trainer on the BengalsÕ sideline. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jon Jungwirth, right, watches a replay alongside Cincinnati Bengals Ryan Hewitt during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth, an athletic trainer from Iron Mountain, Mich., worked as an athletic trainer on the BengalsÕ sideline. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

A large, lumbering refueling cargo plane roars south to north from one end of the football field and beyond the other end during the final notes of the National Anthem.

As the plane flies away, the deafening sound of its engines fades and gives way to the cheering of 80,000 people at Lambeau Field.

It’s hot. It’s loud. It’s gameday.

Somewhere on the Cincinnati Bengals sideline across from the Green Bay Packers is an Iron Mountain resident who, save for a chance encounter at a national convention years ago, wouldn’t otherwise be there.

Jon Jungwirth, a certified athletic trainer at Bellin Health, stands among Bengals’ players, coaches and staff with a pack clipped around his waist and a water bottle in his hand. The water isn’t for him on the 97-degree sunny afternoon at Lambeau, the hottest-ever game at the hallowed stadium. The water is for the players around him.

Jon Jungwirth, left, looks on as Cincinnati BengalsÕ Dre Kirkpatrick, center, drinks water against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth, a Bellin Health athletic trainer from Iron Mountain, Mich., worked as an athletic trainer on the BengalsÕ sideline. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jon Jungwirth, left, looks on as Cincinnati BengalsÕ Dre Kirkpatrick, center, drinks water against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth, a Bellin Health athletic trainer from Iron Mountain, Mich., worked as an athletic trainer on the BengalsÕ sideline. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

On this sweaty Sept. 24 afternoon, Jungwirth was a trainer for the Bengals, sporting all-black attire, including shoes, pants and a polo.

“I’ve known the head athletic trainer (Paul Sparling) for the Bengals for years,” Jungwirth said, explaining how he came to find himself on the Bengals sideline, adding that over the years he has gotten to work for a day as a team trainer “when the Bengals come to the NFC North opponents.”

Jungwirth met Sparling at the National Athletic Trainers Association Convention at St. Louis in 2008. The two struck a friendship that has spurred offers for Jungwirth to join the sidelines when the Bengals visit Midwest NFL cities.

The National Football League rotates its schedule every four years, which has allowed Jungwirth to visit every NFC North stadium since he’s helped the team, except for the Minnesota Vikings’ new grounds, US Bank Stadium, which Jungwirth plans to see when the Bengals play there Week 15, on Dec. 17.

Jungwirth, 42, holds a master’s degree in athletic training from Illinois State University and is a certified National Academy of Sports Medicine-Performance Enhancement Specialist. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Jon Jungwirth walks off the field during a game between the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth said he is a lifelong Packers fan. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jon Jungwirth walks off the field during a game between the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. Jungwirth said he is a lifelong Packers fan. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jungwirth’s presence on the Bengals’ sideline alleviates the hectic travel schedule of an NFL team. It simply saves the Bengals from including one more person in its travel itinerary, especially when some stuff are unable to attend a particular away game. About 140 people including players, coaching and support staff from NFL teams travel to away games.

“It’s just another set of hands in the locker room, in the training room and on the field,” Jungwirth said.

Ideas to take home

The hot day in Green Bay against the Packers necessitated trainers like Sparling and Jungwirth to work at the top of their own respective game. They had to stay ready to deal with injuries, but mostly keeping players hydrated and cool. Jungwirth said the opportunity to join the sidelines affords him an experience that directly impacts how he treats student-athletes at local schools. Through Bellin Health, Jungwirth works as a trainer at North Dickinson County School and Niagara High School in sports ranging from basketball and volleyball to football and track and field.

“Obviously it’s an extremely high-level athlete. It’s the big show. Some of these game days in the NFL is what America’s watching. You just kind of take away and watch how they treat different injuries,” Jungwirth said of the gameday NFL experience. “The interesting thing is injuries are the same thing whether it’s a professional athlete or high school athlete. I just try to apply some of the techniques. They have some exposure to newer gadgets and some of that stuff. But injuries are the same for high school athletes and professional athletes.”

Jungwirth said things like choices of tape and where to apply different kinds of tape on athletes are among some of the treatment examples he’s learned while working with the Bengals, and has used at local sporting events.

Jon Jungwirth, kneeling, ties Darqueze DennardÕs shoe during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

Jon Jungwirth, kneeling, ties Darqueze DennardÕs shoe during a game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. (Adam Niemi/Iron Mountain Daily News)

“There’s different taping techniques, different types of tape for different applications or locations on the body,” he said. “You want to have some strength with this tape, but you don’t want to cut off circulation. There’s different kinds of tape from watching their head athletic trainer taping different joints with different kinds of tape. I never thought of taping a joint that way with that kind of tape.”

Close to stars

The closer you get to the field, the less a barrier exists between you and the players. TV presents players as abstract — viewers only know how a player looks, and there is zero interaction. Most fans at a stadium see more or less a figure with namse and numbers on their jerseys, but they’re there in person, yet still no interaction. Jungwirth runs onto the field during timeouts and stands shoulder to shoulder in the presence of the NFL’s most popular players, asking if they need water, or in other cases, tying their shoes. While he was at first star-struck by seeing some of these popular players, the face-to-face interactions he’s had working with players has more or less made him comfortable with being around the star players.

“They’re people. I think the biggest thing that we see is how these people are high-profile and they’re looked up upon and made big stories of. But what it all boils down to is, they’re people,” Jungwirth said. “You can relate to them. They’re people, they’re just extremely talented at throwing the football or they’re big and strong — blocking and catching a pass. They’re blessed with certain abilities and talents that we don’t have. They’re people too.

“Coming out of that tunnel, just as a person helping that team, is an adrenaline rush,” Jungwirth added. “It’s a thing you’re blessed to have an opportunity to have done that. I’ve done that.”

When he jogs onto the field during a timeout, Jungwirth said he is only thinking of his work. But there are times he said when he takes in the moment — being on the plush turf of Lambeau Field.

“Don’t trip,”?Jungwirth said with a laugh about what he’s thinking in moments like that. “The roar of the crowd. Granted you’re on the losing end of it, but it’s awe-inspiring, motivating, all the emotions you would ever think about.”

Love for the Packers

Being a lifelong Packer fan as an Oshkosh, Wis. native, Jungwirth said being at that Sept. 24 game, the hottest game in Lambeau Field history (89-degree game-time temperature), added to his family’s Packers fandom. His father and grandfather attended the coldest game in Lambeau Field history — the Ice Bowl — the 1967 NFL Championship between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. The game-time temperature was minus-15 degrees.

“My grandfather has had season tickets since Lambeau was built,”Jungwirth said of the family’s Section 102, Row 8 seats. “He had season tickets at the old City Stadium. That’s how my dad and grandfather got to go to the game.”

Despite all the access he’s had working NFL games, Jungwirth said he doesn’t see himself changing his career path towards becoming an athletic trainer in the NFL. It would mean moving his wife, Angie, and their children Brady, 9, Lauren, 7, and Carli, 5.

“That’s kind of in a different phase of my life, maybe if I were younger, yes. The people in this area and this community are who I want to be taking care of,” Jungwirth said. “If I can do a few games here and a few games there, that’s great. This is home and these are the people who I like to take care of. It’s a wonderful opportunity, but it’s a lifestyle change. I’ve got family and friends. If you look at an NFL schedule, game day on Sunday, travel on Saturday. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they’re practicing. It’s a lifestyle change.

“Awesome as it is,” Jungwirth added, “we get to take care of our Iron Mountain-Kingsford area community people and do what we do for them. No place I’d rather be, than here. Not even Lambeau.”

Professional Sports

Rays promote Joe Benge to head athletic trainer


Article reposted from Tampa Bay Times
Author: Marc Topkin

The Rays promoted Joe Benge to head athletic trainer as part of a staff shuffle following the departure of Ron Porterfield to the Dodgers.

Mark Vinson was promoted to top assistant and former top assistant Paul Harker shifted to a new medical coordinator post.

Benge (pronounced BENJ), 40, has been in the Rays organization for seven years, the last six as  minor league medical training coordinator, and also assisting the major-league staff. He was named the 2015 minor-league athletic trainer of the year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.

Vinson, 40, has been with the Rays for 12 seasons, the last seven as an assistant on the big-league staff.

Harker, 49, has been with the Rays for 21 years, working the last 12 as the top assistant to Porterfield. In his new role, the Rays say he “will assist the athletic training staff in a variety of ways, with a focus on logistical support and organizational coordination. He will also be heavily involved with directing care for major league players on the disabled list as well as medical evaluation.”

Rays GM Erik Neander said in a statement: “It’s always tough to lose someone as talented and dedicated as Ron Porterfield, but we wish him nothing but the best. We are excited to see Joe, Vinny and Hark in their new roles, building upon current practices and ensuring that the ATC staff continues to provide first-class care to our players.”

Porterfield had been the Rays head athletic trainer for 12 years and with the team for 21 before leaving for the Dodgers, where he will serve as medical director.

Professional Sports

Longtime Mariners athletic trainer Rick Griffin to take emeritus role


Article reposted from The Seattle Times
While players, coaches, managers and executives have come and gone over the years and seasons — winning and mostly losing — Rick Griffin remained a constant in the Mariners organization as the team’s head athletic trainer.

But after 35 seasons in that role, the longtime fixture will take step back in his duties. On Friday, the organization announced that Griffin will transition to the role of athletic trainer emeritus for the 2018 season. In this dialed-back position, Griffin will remain a a part of the Mariners’ medical team, but will no longer work in the training room on an every day basis.

“I have spent the past 35 seasons as the head athletic trainer with the Mariners, a tremendous experience that has allowed me to create amazing relationships with players and staff members from Jim Beattie, Mark Langston and Alvin Davis to Jay Buhner and Ken Griffey Jr. to Robinson Canó, Felix Hernández and Kyle Seager,” he said in a statement. “I value those friendships more than I can say. Moving to this new role will allow me to continue to be involved with the Mariners organization, its players, staff and fans, but will not require the year around, 24-7 demands of the past three-and-a-half decades.”

The plan for this transition started near the end of the 2017 season and was not a direct result of the recent hiring of Dr. Lorena Martin, who will serve as the organization’s “director of high performance” — a job created to coordinate all aspects of the Mariners’ physical and mental training approach of players and staff.

Griffin was the team’s second-ever head athletic trainer, starting his tenure on Feb. 3, 1983. He worked 5,543 regular season games for the Mariners and 34 postseason games.

“On behalf of the Mariners franchise, I want to thank Rick for everything he has done for the Seattle Mariners,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “He has truly touched every team and every player of the past 35 seasons, and his impact will continue to be felt for years to come. We’re thankful that he has agreed to continue as athletic trainer emeritus, giving all of us the benefit of his expertise even as he takes a step back from the day-to-day grind of the baseball season.”

Griffin picked up several awards during his tenure. In 1999, he and this staff were named the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society’s “Major League Baseball Athletic Training Staff of the Year.” In 2013, Griffin and his staff were presented with the Martin-Monahan Award as the best medical staff in MLB. Griffin was inducted into the Washington State Athletic Trainers Association (WSATA) Hall of Fame in 2016. Griffin was also a part of four American League All-Star teams (1987, 1995, 2001 and 2010)  and also worked as an athletic trainer for a MLB All-Star team that toured Japan in 1996.

Prior to joining the Mariners, Griffin served as an athletic trainer at the Sports Medicine Clinic in Seattle. He spent four years (1977-81) as an athletic trainer with the Eugene Emeralds in the Northwest League.

Besides his work in baseball, he’s worked in the offseason at professional rodeos in Montana.

A native of Brigham City, Utah, Griffin earned his Bachelor of Science from Utah State University in Health Education, and followed with an M.S. in Sports Medicine from the University of Oregon. Rick has three adult daughters, Ashley, Nicole and Lauren. He and his wife, Rachel, reside in Bothell, and have three children: Gabrielle, Nainoa and Keanu.

Professional Sports

An Ode to Mets Athletic Trainer Ray Ramirez: The Snakebitten Trainer for a Snakebitten Team


Article reposted from Sports Illustrated
Author:  Jack Dickey

Let me stipulate that some jobs are truly and unavoidably thankless. They are suicide missions. They are jobs where you will be noticed if and only if your employer falls short of its objective as it seems to concern you—even if you personally are blameless. Armored car driver, White House ethics lawyer, that kind of thing. I cop to precisely zero knowledge about whether head athletic trainer for a famously snakebitten baseball club is or isn’t such an appointment.

One man who might have an opinion, Ray Ramirez, was officially separated today from his longtime gig as the New York Mets’ head trainer. He’d been a survivor, all things considered. He’d held the job since fall 2004 and served under three managers and two general managers amidst ceaseless griping about the team’s perpetual injury problem. Until recently, speculation had been that Ramirez would retain his job despite an organizational purge that claimed manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen.

Athletes get hurt; that comes with the territory. But it sure seemed like the Mets got hurt more, and more cruelly, than most. Each member of the team’s vaunted young rotation has suffered at least one season-ending injury in the last two seasons. The exception is Noah Syndergaard, who earlier this year refused an MRI, pitched through pain, tore a muscle, and wound up missing five months. Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz all enter the offseason with their big-league futures in serious doubt. Yoenis Cespedes, the team’s best hitter, missed half of the 2017 season with presumably manageable leg injuries, and David Wright missed the entire season after injury setbacks in spring training.

And as with the Syndergaard affair, the team’s initial diagnoses and treatment approaches tended to misfire. In 2015, what turned out to be Wright’s degenerative spinal condition was first identified as a mere hamstring strain. In 2009, with bone chips in his elbow, reliever J.J. Putz received a cortisone shot instead of surgery. He tore his UCL. In 2008, outfielder Ryan Church was held off the disabled list—and flown on a road trip to high-altitude Colorado—after sustaining his second concussion of the season.

During the Ramirez era, Johan Santana turned from an innings-eater to cautionary tale, and Moises Alou, always injury-prone, managed the astounding feat of playing in just 102 games between 2007 and 2008. Every big-ticket acquisition other than Curtis Granderson wound up missing extended time at one point or another. (To be sure, this group consists primarily of older players, and as such may very well be more prone to injury than the entire population of baseball players.) Overall, in 2017, the payroll-challenged Mets ranked second in baseball in total salary lost to the disabled list, according to Spotrac. And from the start of the 2010 season through mid-2017, according to FiveThirtyEight, the team ranked eighth overall in potential player contributions lost to the disabled list.

All the while, Ramirez made a terrific scapegoat. So much was going wrong with the Mets. But there was no direct and effective way to bemoan the post-Bernie Madoff parsimony of the team’s owners or the Sandy Alderson regime’s struggles in the draft. The M.D.’s from the Hospital for Special Surgery don’t sit in the dugout. And even in New York only a certain subset of fans is willing to boo the home team. Ramirez, though, was present, every third night jogging onto the field to wrestle with some fresh hell, something that could happen seemingly only to the Mets.

How culpable, personally, was he? (Who knew? Who cared?) For better or worse, the question now becomes his successor’s to answer. As for Ramirez? As Mets injury nomenclature would have it: His tenure with the team is day-to-day with a calf strain.

Professional Sports

Life of an NFL athletic trainer


Article reposted from VailDaily
Author: Richard Williams

Richard Williams is an athletic trainer who recently joined the team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. He works both in the office and in surgery. It’s pretty cool that he has a Super Bowl ring from 2015. In this article, I asked Williams to describe life as an athletic trainer in the NFL.

Dr. Rick Cunningham
Vail-Summit Orthopaedics

Football is back and for many people, it is an entertainment business that allows us to cheer on our favorite team each week. I had the privilege to work in the NFL as an athletic training student for two years and as a certified athletic trainer for a year.

“I hope that one day people will stop looking at athletic trainers as “water boys” and learn how much time and effort we put into the care of these athletes on a daily basis.”

This time of year reminds me of the hard work, dedication and time spent with those teams during training camp and moving forward into the season. I was lucky enough to work for two different NFL organizations, including the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos.

The athletic training staff is only one component to the success of an NFL team, but it is a major part of helping athletes achieve maximum production from their bodies and ultimately keeping them on the field. The daily duties for an athletic trainer, as well as the hours they work, make the job difficult mentally and physically.


Most people do not know what an athletic trainer’s job entails. Some people may see athletic trainers as “water boys” with the easiest job in the world, but in reality, athletic trainers do much more than make sure the athletes are well hydrated. Athletic trainers are responsible for treatment throughout the entire injury process for a player, from the time of injury to the athlete returning to play.

During my time in the NFL, I would typically get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and arrive at work around 4:45 a.m. to start treatments by 5:30 a.m. Treatments would consist of therapeutic modalities (i.e. ultrasound), joint mobilization techniques, soft tissue massage, stretching, aqua therapy, physical exercises and core strengthening.

Treatments would continue until the players would go to individual and team meetings. NFL players cannot perform at their highest level if they do not continue to take care of the bodies. After player meetings, there would be more treatment sessions before practice.

While players were attending meetings, myself and another athletic trainer would set up the field for practice. Before practice, athletic trainers would each lead 10-15 athletes through a thorough stretching program. During practice, athletic trainer duties included surveying the field for possible areas where the players were at higher risk of injury, hydration, immediate evaluation and treatment of player’s injuries, and helping the players or coaches whenever needed.

After practice, we would take medical equipment inside and begin further treatment sessions until the players went to additional meetings in the afternoon. After the players finished meetings, we would finish final treatments for the day. Training camp was always the most intense work schedule as we would have a walk-through practice and a full practice the same day. Our daily hours would be from 5:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.


I believe that the head athletic trainer of the Houston Texans, Geoff Kaplan, said it best when he was interviewed about being an athletic trainer in the NFL.

He said, “It’s a very attractive job because all people see is Sunday, from noon to 3. What people don’t see is my cell phone is on and I am on call, 24 hours a day, seven days a week during football season. We’re on call just like a doctor is on call. During the season, you work six months straight without a day off. Depending on if we’re traveling or not, we’re working between 80 and 90 hours a week. During training camp, we’re working 110 to 120 hours a week. The Sunday part is very attractive but you have to have a very understanding family to do the Monday through Saturday part.”

I am thankful for the opportunity I had to work in the NFL and although I made great friendships and relationships with amazing athletes, I am more thankful for the education I was able to obtain and the skills and techniques that I will use for the rest of my career.

I was lucky enough to be a part of the 2015 Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos organization that made the long days and grueling season all worth it.

I hope that one day people will stop looking at athletic trainers as “water boys” and learn how much time and effort we put into the care of these athletes on a daily basis.

Richard Williams is an ATC and OTC to Dr. Richard Cunningham, M.D. Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. Williams received his undergraduate degree in athletic training from the University of Cincinnati. As an undergrad, he completed two seasonal internships with the Cincinnati Bengals. Upon graduation from the University of Cincinnati, Williams worked as a certified athletic trainer fellow for the Denver Broncos and went on to be a part of the Super Bowl 50 championship team. Williams is a board-certified orthopedic technologist and licensed surgical assistant. For more information, visit

Professional Sports

Longtime Orioles head athletic trainer Richie Bancells retiring


Article reposted from The Baltimore Sun
Author: Eduardo A. Encina

Orioles head athletic trainer Richie Bancells, who has been a staple in the organization for more than four decades and is one of the team’s longest-tenured employees, told the club Sunday that this season — his 30th in his current role — will be his last.

Bancells told Orioles manager Buck Showalter before the Orioles’ season finale against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday about his decision to retire.

“There’s not much more pertinent news than that from me today,” Showalter said. “A guy that has been such a fixture for us for so many years and made so many contributions for us. So many that people didn’t see, evaluations. Let’s face it, he was the trainer for Cal Ripken. The conversation starts and stops there for me.

“Seeing players come back and what Richie meant to them, the pureness of heart and how much he loves the Orioles. … It’s a loss for us. It’s like losing a really good player. It’s a loss for us. …”

“There were just a lot of great moments, whether it was postseason stuff,” Bancells said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work with so many good, good players, some of them in the Hall [of Fame]. It’s just hard to pinpoint one or two things after all these years, but it’s just been a great time.”

Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. credited Bancells for getting him through his record consecutive-games-played streak, thanking him during his acceptance speed in Cooperstown in 2007.

“He’s one of the most respected trainers in the business,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said “I’m sure he has some great war stories, but I want to thank him on behalf of the Orioles for his great work.

“There are a lot of players he’s helped over the years to be healthy and have great careers. He did it very professionally. He’s a great role model for young trainer coming into the big leagues and he grew as a professional over the course of his career. The Orioles owe a debt of thanks to Richie and we wish him all the best of luck.”

Over several generations, Bancells’ face was a recognizable face among Orioles fans as he would accompany the team’s manager to the field to attend to any injury concern.

“It makes you feel good,” Bancells said. “It does. It makes you know that they’re really true fans if they know who I am. And I actually have had the opportunity to help them. At times, they’ve asked me for advice and I’ve helped them with things and I’ve always enjoyed doing that. It touches you. It really does touch you.”

Bancells said he decided to retire to be able to spend more time with his wife of 39 years, Carol, his three children and seven young grandchildren.

“This has become pretty much a 24/7 year-round job,” Bancells said. “And that’s the thing, it’s realizing that you’re being dragged a little bit further from your family. And as I said, all of our kids are grown and they have spouses and I have seven beautiful grandchildren. I’m really anxious to spend time with them and do things and go places with my wife Carol that I haven’t had the chance to do.”

Professional Sports

Twins athletic trainer Dave Pruemer decides to call it a career


Article reposted from StarTribune

Even the excitement of a pennant race can’t beat the lure of home.

That’s what Twins athletic trainer Dave Pruemer has decided after 24 years in the organization, and 13 in the major leagues. Pruemer will retire once the season ends in order to move his family back to his and wife, Tina’s, tiny rural hometown of Teutopolis, Ill.

“It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Pruemer, who will throw out the first pitch before Saturday’s game with the Tigers. But his children, HannahDylan and Tyler, are now 16, 13 and 11, and “it was just time to get home and see the kids more. They’re at an age now where I realized, I don’t want to miss everything. I feel like I miss too much. I don’t want to travel eight months a year anymore.”

Pruemer, 46, was hired by the Twins in 1995, shortly after graduating from Southern Illinois, and he worked at nearly every level of the system, starting at rookie-level Elizabethton through Class AAA Rochester. He was promoted to the major leagues in 2005, and has been the team’s head athletic trainer in 2013.

“I’ve think I’ve known Dave my entire career,” said Joe Mauer, drafted by the Twins in 2001. “We shared a lot of laughs, and a lot of not-so-good times, too. But he’s been consistent the whole way through, every day, and you really appreciate that, especially in this sport.”

Added second baseman Brian Dozier: “He’s very blue-collar. He’s not a trainer who’s going to baby you. He’s a country guy who always shot it to you straight.”

In memoriam

After smashing an upper-deck home run in the second inning Friday, Eduardo Escobar waved his arms as he neared home plate, kissed his right hand and held it to the sky. The gesture had more meaning than usual for the Twins third baseman.

Escobar’s grandfather, Marquiade Escobar, died of a heart attack Thursday at his home in Venezuela. The 79-year-old had recently been hospitalized with a bout of bronchitis, his grandson said, but had been released and appeared to be recovering when he was stricken.

Escobar grew up about 15 miles from his grandfather, he said, and they were very close. “He always supported me,” Escobar said. “Mucho.”

Decisions, decisions

All of the Twins got to celebrate the team’s playoff slot Wednesday night in Cleveland, but not everybody will be coming to the wild-card game Tuesday, Twins manager Paul Molitor said. And so he began the somewhat difficult process on Friday of informing players that they probably won’t be on the playoff roster.

“You want to err on over-communicating those things,” Molitor said of breaking the bad news to players. “Some [meetings] have already happened, and some will happen tomorrow.”

Molitor said he had discussions with Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey, General Manager Thad Levine and their staffs on Friday about what shape the roster might take next Tuesday against either the Yankees or Red Sox. It’s likely they will have 10 or 11 pitchers on the roster for the game, Molitor said.

The Twins don’t have to turn in a final roster until Tuesday, Molitor said, and they might need the time to make a few final calls. Miguel Sano’s status “is the wild card,” he said. “A lot of people have contributed and not everybody is going to have a chance to be a part of it. It’s just the way it is.”

• The Twins don’t get to play host to the wild-card game, but that doesn’t mean fans can’t watch it at Target Field. The team will open the Delta Sky 360 level to fans, who can watch the 7 p.m. game on the scoreboard. Admission is free, and the team will provide games and music, with concession stands open.

Professional Sports

Remembering the Vikings Fred Zamberletti


Article reposted from
Author: Eric Smith

Fred Zamberletti saw thousands of touchdowns while in Minnesota.

From Fran Tarkenton’s first, a 14-yard pass to Bob Schnelker on the team’s inaugural day, to Bill Brown, Chuck Foreman, Ahmad Rashad, Cris Carter or Randy Moss, the original Viking celebrated touchdowns from the sidelines for decades.

Zamberletti, 85, who has been with the team in some capacity since the franchise was founded in 1961, said he usually had a ritual of congratulating players who scored by giving them a tap on the back.

But during the 1998 season, the player who scored the most touchdowns for the Vikings that year wondered why he never got any love from Zamberletti, the longtime trainer for the Vikings.

“He said to me one time, ‘How come when I score touchdowns you don’t pat me on the back?’ I had to think about that quickly,” Zamberletti said with a smile as he recalled the interaction with Moss. “I said, ‘Because I know you’re going to do it again.’ He said, ‘You’re right.’

“That settled that,” Zamberletti said.

The 1998 season was Moss’ first with Minnesota and Zamberletti’s last as the team’s Head Athletic Trainer, a role he had held for almost 40 years. He was the Coordinator of Medical Services from 1999 to 2001 and has been a Consultant/Team Historian ever since.

The trainer from Iowa and the wide receiver from West Virginia bonded over the years, playing pickup basketball in the offseason and chatting their childhoods in coal mining country.

Zamberletti is one of 21 members of the Vikings Ring of Honor, a number that will soon grow to 23 with the additions of Moss and Rashad.

When Moss was surprised with the induction announcement in June, he spoke about the people who helped him secure a place in Vikings lore.

And he made sure to place a phone call to someone special to him.

“He called me up,” Zamberletti said. “I told him, ‘It’s an honor to have you in the Ring of Honor.’ ”

Moss responded: “No, it’s an honor for me to be with you in the Ring of Honor.”


Professional Sports

Professional baseball provides an exciting and rewarding experience for athletic trainer


Article reposted from Illinois State University News
Author: Barbara Schlatter

School of Kinesiology and Recreation alum Dustin Vissering ’11 earned his bachelor’s degree in athletic training. A native of East Peoria, Illinois, Vissering said it was the fine reputation of Illinois State’s athletic training program that attracted him to the field. He always enjoyed following the Peoria Chiefs baseball team growing up and was aware of ISU’s involvement with the team. He was elated to land an internship during the summer following his junior year with the Chiefs because it meant he could live at home and spend the summer working for a professional baseball team.

Vissering stayed involved with collegiate baseball while earning his masters in sports management from Western Illinois University, before completing a year stint with the Kansas City Royals in 2013. He is currently in his fourth year as athletic trainer with the Texas Rangers where he was first hired in Rookie League, and later promoted through the system to Short Season A (Spokane Indians), and now to the Low A affiliate where he serves the Hickory Crawdads in North Carolina. A typical day for Vissering on a game night begins midday when he prepares the treatment room. Players spend 1-2 hours with him doing stretches, getting taped, or receiving massages to loosen up. The next couple of hours are spent observing the pitchers stretch and throw, and watching batting practice. The team eats dinner together before receiving pre-game treatments and getting dressed for the game. Post-game, Vissering takes care of the pitchers’ arms and shoulders, and provides more elaborate treatment for anyone who may have been injured during the game. There are also injury reports to be written before the day’s end. By 11 p.m. he is ready to go home.

The most challenging aspect of Vissering’s job is that he wears many hats besides being the team athletic trainer. When the team is on the road he not only cares for health and well-being of the players, but he prepares the trip itinerary, makes hotel arrangements, arranges workouts at the gym, and takes care of food for the team. If a player is promoted or demoted, Vissering assists with the travel arrangements and prepares documents for the player to transition to their new team. Juggling these duties to make sure everything goes smoothly requires constant organization and attention to detail.

The most rewarding part of his work occurs in his capacity as an athletic trainer. Seeing a player who has been injured follow Vissering’s rehabilitation protocol, and then return to the field and excel is very satisfying. It is clear to Vissering that the countless hours spent in the classroom and in clinical settings pays off in the end when you see how the players put their trust and faith in the athletic trainers.

Vissering was voted the 2016 South Atlantic League Athletic Trainer of the Year by his peers in the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS). He was also nominated and chosen by the Rangers to work as an athletic trainer in the 2016 Arizona Fall League.

Vissering’s fondest memories of ISU are from the friendships he made with the athletic training cohort and his professors, especially Kevin Laudner and Justin Stanek. His advice to new KNR alums is to, “Always go above and beyond what is expected. Treat everyone with respect and remember that there is no job that you’re too big for. Let your work speak for itself.”