The Three Wise Men….The Rays Trainers’
All throughout my athletic career I always saw this one piece of the total puzzle as a necessary evil. That even if we did not want to suffice to injury or to pain, I knew that the team’s Medical Staff and Trainer’s sole mission was to keep us healthy or get us ready to again take the field as soon as possible.
And within time, I began to see them not as evil, but as a saving grace to my career and others on the team for their dedication and their determination to do whatever was needed to make the team whole and strong again.
Most people are beginning to dwell and concentrate their attentions on the reports spilling out onto the Internet that gaze upon the Rays players names that have been taken off the daily line-up cards without seeing the total picture here right now. They forget that this is the time in the Spring Training season where the “dead arms” begin to multiple, and the players bodies are racked with aches and strains of sweating bullets for the last three weeks.
Some Rays players are hitting the baseball equivalency of a marathoner’s wall, where even the slightest pull or strain could develop into a more severe episode if not for the Rays trio.
And most people do not even know their names, but they know their faces because every time a player is hurt on the field, or is taken from the game with a injury, they are right there in the photo with the Rays player usually helping them or stabilizing a body part hoping that their small action will minimize the consequences of the injury and speed the player’s recovery even before they both reach the Home Team or Visitor’s dugout.
Some of the most unsung heroes on this Rays squad is the trio of professionals that make up the Rays Medical Staff.So today, I want to take a moment to introduce you to the main three figures within the Rays Medical staff that treat, diagnose and prevent the breakdown of our favorite team on a daily basis. And this includes everything from the pre-game taping of ankles, wrists and even hamstrings, to post game visits by player’s feeling a tightening or tweak of their muscles during the contests.
There collective job’s starts way before the first pitch is thrown during Batting Practice, and they days ins well into the early morning on game nights.
Most people know Ron Porterfield more by his smile or his occasion visits out to the field to throw with a rehabbing player before the game, usually during B.P. And this move by Porterfield might seem foreign to most, but by observing the player in their throwing motion, he can see any deviation or hesitation personally and make his moves accordingly. And Porterfield has been doing this for some time for the Rays.
In 2010, Porterfield will be entering his 15th season with the Rays, and his fifth straight as the main guy on the Rays Medical Staff. And before his time at the top spot, Porterfield, was the Rays Assistant Head Trainer for three seasons after getting his stripes as the Rays minor league medical and rehabilitation coordinator. And during that time he has been a great ally to the Rays players, both past and present pertaining to both on and off the field medical situations.
Most people might not know the untold hours and endless research Porterfield did concerning Rocco Baldelli’s 2007 ailment, and his constant attention to finding relief and treatments that would enable Baldelli to again take the field with the Rays. And you would only expect such dedication and commitment from the 2008 recipient of the prestigious American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) Career Service Award. The honor “recognizes individuals who have provided a career of exemplary care to baseball players.” I think the Institute definitely got that one right!
The second Member of the Rays Medical Team recently got his photo in the news wire photos as the Rays were carting Rays catcher Dioner Navarro off the field after he suffered a massive cut and possible nerve injury on a Home Plate collision with Twins speedster Jacques Jones. Paul Harker usually looks pretty serious when you see him before, during and after games, but the rugged Rays Assistant Trainer is entering his fifth season in that position after leaving his post as the Rays minor league medical and rehabilitation coordinator after three prior seasons.
And Harker was involved in the Rays minor league system for over 11 seasons before rising to his post with the Major League staff. And before the Rays, Harker was a trainer with the Seattle Mariners in their minor league system at Hampton, Virginia (1991-1992), Jacksonville, Florida ( 1993-1994) and Wilmington, North Carolina (1995-1996). And like Porterfield, Harker has paid his dues to get to this level in his career.
The last member of this triad also got some attention recently as Rays starter David Price was nicked by the barrel end of a maple bat during a recent game and Nick Paparesta was prominently featured in photos throughout the country holding onto Price’s wrist as they both exited the field. Paparesta is entering his third season with the Rays as an Assistant Head Trainer, but he has been with the Rays organization now for five seasons.
Paparesta can usually been seen sitting down by the Rays Bullpen benches during Batting Practice watching the actions of Rays players on the field. He spent his first two seasons in the Rays organization as the minor league medical and rehabilitation coordinator and was responsible for overseeing all minor league trainers and rehabilitation with minor league players as well as assisting with the Major League club’s rehabilitation schedule.
Paparesta, a Florida native from neighboring city Fort Myers, got his Major League Baseball start in the Cleveland Indians organization for 11 years, including four with their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, New York. Paparesta has dual certifications as an Athletic Trainer from the National Athletic Trainer’ Association (NATA) and also certification by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a strength and conditioning trainer.
These three members of the Rays Medical staff are the front line responders to actions and reaction that take part in front of our eyes, and within the dugout on a daily basis for the Rays. Their fast actions and adherence to policies and team procedures pertaining to the health and well being of every member of the Rays staff both during the regular season and this Spring will have a direct impact on the Rays this season.
The prognosis and diagnosis by each member of this Rays staff is critical to supporting the Rays objectives and ultimate goals for 2010.By keeping the Rays players on the field by mending their wounds and bandaging their limbs and applying ointments and medications to the Rays players when needed, they are the first line of defense to keeping this Rays team securely on the field and providing the team with a fighting chance to again rise towards a possible 2010 Playoff berth.
Lynn Sladsky/ AP
They all work their magic behind the watchful eyes of the Rays Republic to secure the Rays player’s health and generally are only seen when something bad or preplexing has happened on the field, or if called out to provide a second opinion into a player’s injury and offer guidance as to if a Rays player should remain on the field, or taken off the field for further evaluations.
So next time you see one of them hanging out at the ballpark, be sure to thank them for their services, and maybe ask how they are doing. For if it wasn’t for these three gentlemen and their commitment to this team, the Ray current injury situations could have been much worse, and resemble the shambles that is the New York Met’s Medical Staff right now.