Professional Sports

Phillies Athletic Trainer Scott Sheridan Shares Special Bond With Chase Utley


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Chase Utley belted a solo home run for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning on Tuesday night and ran — no, sprinted — around the bases at Citizens Bank Park.

It was a sight Phillies fans had seen many times during Utley’s 13 years in red pinstripes.

 Put your head down and run like the cops are chasing you.

But it was also a scene many wondered if they’d ever see again back when Utley was beset by knee problems in spring training 2011.

He missed most of the first two months of that season when one knee flared.

He missed almost half of the next season when both knees flared.

The pain was so bad in spring training that Utley, looking to keep his hands soft and quick, had to resort to sitting on a stool while taking ground balls in spring training.

Until Utley learned to manage his knee condition, there was in some circles legitimate doubt that he’d be able to continue his career.

Utley, of course, did not live in those circles.

“It was nothing that I really thought about,” he said upon returning to Citizens Bank Park with the Dodgers on Tuesday night and following that fifth-inning solo homer with a seventh-inning grand slam en route to almost personally hanging a 15-5 loss on the Phillies (see story).

“Maybe I should have thought that way but I tried to stay positive and tried to keep my focus on what I needed to do to get back on the field, so those things never crossed my mind, which I think is a way to kind of move past it, and I have.”

Scott Sheridan, the Phillies’ head athletic trainer, always believed Utley would be able to continue his career once the second baseman figured out how to handle his knee issues.

“You knew he’d find a way to get better,” said Sheridan, watching Utley work out from the Phillies’ dugout before Tuesday night’s game. “He was a grinder. Part of getting better is you have to want to get better and he did.”

There was no way Utley was giving in to painful knees. With the assistance of Sheridan and agent Joel Wolfe, Utley identified and visited doctors and physical therapists all over the country until he finally learned to take pressure off his knees with a program of stretching, strengthening, deep tissue massage and other therapies.

Sheridan’s importance in Utley’s ability to manage his knee problems — and subsequently continue a productive playing career — can’t be underestimated. Utley is a preparation freak who takes dozens of swings and ground balls before every game. Once the knee issues entered the picture, he needed to spend significant time in the trainer’s room with Sheridan just so he could go through his usual physical preparation for the game.

During his final years with the Phillies, Utley would arrive at the ballpark by 12:30 in afternoon for a 7 p.m. game. That meant Sheridan had to be there at that time, too, to work on Utley’s legs just so he could play that night.

Did Utley play in pain often?

“I think so,” Sheridan said. “Though he’d never say it.”

Sheridan rethought his answer.

“I don’t know if pain is the right word,” he said. “But there were definitely times he was not comfortable.”

Over time, a brotherly bond formed between Utley and Sheridan.

“Our conversations were always good,” Sheridan said. “Chase can be very funny.”

And sometimes he could be more than that.

When Sheridan lost his father in May 2015, Utley became more than just a player on the training table. He became a compassionate and caring ear for his friend.

Sheridan gets a little lump in his throat when a player — at least one of the good guys — gets traded.

“With Chase, it was a little more than others,” he said. “He never walked out of the room without saying thank you.

“I speak to our minor-league prospects every year and tell them don’t be afraid to say thank you now and then to that guy who stretches out your shoulder. Chase always got it.

“When he was traded he left me a signed bat. But just getting off that table every day was thanks enough.”

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Professional Sports

Neil Rampe’s Path to the Bigs


It is a long way from Limaland to Los Angeles, and the path that Neil Rampe has taken from Kalida to becoming the head athletic trainer for Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers is an incredible journey, to say the least.

The 1996 Kalida High School graduate has worked as a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Minnesota. Then Neil served as a certified athletic trainer at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Colorado. From there, he went on to spend five years at the University of Arizona where he served as an associate director for performance enhancement. Not done there, how about over to pro baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, where Rampe was the D-Backs’ manual and performance therapist from 2008 to November 2015. And then the week before Thanksgiving, the L.A. Dodgers called and asked Neil to come out to LA for an all day interview. Neil was offered the position of head athletic trainer for one of pro sports’ biggest franchises 45 minutes after leaving the interview. That is a wild ride from Kalida for sure!

But Neil certainly remembers where he is from.

“I often think of Dick Kortokrax at Kalida and the lessons he taught of life and sports and how you get places,” Rampe told me live from Atlanta on Wednesday on “Koza in the Morning.”

And Rampe still has family in Kalida, and speaking of family — he and his wife recently welcomed their first child into the Rampe household — a baby girl. And would you believe, Liv Rampe was born on Opening Day! Talk about impeccable timing!

Neil is currently in Atlanta this week where the Dodgers are playing the Braves.

As the Dodgers’ head athletic trainer, Rampe oversees a 30-person sports medicine and performance staff in the entire organization. He is involved with the parent club — the Dodgers — on a day in, day out basis. He travels with the team for every game, and anticipates with the 162 game schedule played over 180 days, he will get two to three days off total each month for the next six months.

That’s a grind.

His daily routine is a grind, too.

For a 7:10 p.m. start in Atlanta, Rampe got to the ballpark Tuesday around noon.

After doing some administrative work, he worked on the early arrivals of Dodger players. Then its game day prep, rehab, and treatment, before having dinner and then, “heading to the dugout, eating some sunflower seeds, hoping nobody gets injured and hoping the team gets a “W”.

Oh and then after the game, it’s more players’ treatment and then Neil finally gets to leave the ballpark around midnight.

Then, you do it all over again the next day.

Sound like fun?

Well, Rampe is enjoying his new gig.

“I feel very fortunate and despite the busy schedule we do get back (to Kalida) for holidays and keep in touch. Family is very important to me.”

And the good news, the Dodgers will be nearby Limaland later next month.

They play in Chicago for a series beginning May 30.

Later this season, L.A. is in Pittsburgh for a series starting June 24, and they will be in Cincinnati to battle the Reds beginning Aug. 19.

Much closer paths from Kalida, but this L.A. journey for the young man from Putnam County has been a special trip indeed.

And he remembers where he is from, too.

Neil Rampe is special to me!

You can comment to Vince Koza at


Professional Sports

Dodgers Announce Athletic Training Staff Changes


The Dodgers announced the hiring of three new trainers as part of a makeover to the training staff.

Stan Conte resigned as vice president of medical services after the 2015 season and assistant athletic trainer Nancy Flynn also left the organization.

In their places, the Dodgers have hired Neil Rampe as the new head athletic trainer with Nathan Lucero and Thomas Albert as assistant athletic trainers. Brandon McDaniel (entering his fourth season as strength and conditioning coach), Steve Smith (fifth season as physical therapist) and Yosuke Nakajima (second season as massage therapist) will return in their same roles for 2016.

Rampe spent the past eight seasons as the manual and performance therapist on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ training staff. Current Dodgers senior vice president for baseball operations Josh Byrnes was the Diamondbacks’ GM when Rampe was hired in Arizona.

Lucero spent the past 23 seasons in the Houston Astros organization, the past seven as the Astros’ head athletic trainer.

Albert spent the past four seasons as the rehab coordinator for the Cleveland Indians.


Professional Sports

Nancy Flynn resigns as Dodgers assistant athletic trainer


The Dodgers training staff will be a lot different in 2016. The latest change came on Wednesday, with assistant athletic trainer Nancy Flynn resigning after five years with the team to spend more time with her family.

Flynn made the announcement on her Facebook page.

‘I have enjoyed my time working in professional baseball, but it is the best decision for my family and me. After having my son in February, the Dodgers organization was extremely supportive and gave me every opportunity to have a work-life balance,” she wrote. “I will miss working with the players and coaches, their families and the administration of the Los Angeles Dodgers. For at least the next month, I will continue to be a consultant for the Dodgers, and hope to work in MLB again in the future.”

This is the second departure on the Dodgers training staff this offseason. Vice president of medical services Stan Conte resigned on Oct. 17.

Flynn has been with the Dodgers organization for seven seasons, including the last five years with the major league staff as assistant athletic trainer. She made history in 2011 as the first female athletic trainer in Major League Baseball history.