What I learned on my internship while at GVSU
By Craig Plonka, ATC, Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer, Northern Illinois University
I have always been interested in baseball since I was a little kid, and my interest in baseball grew when I entered the athletic training program. There are many reasons for my peak in interest including a great interest in the shoulder and the challenge that is brought about by working to keep athletes healthy for at least 162 games. When the time came to pick an internship I knew I wanted to do mine with professional baseball. I knew Dr. Hatzel had contacts still in pro baseball; the director of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) internship program was Kevin Harmon, Dr. H's old boss, and the Arizona Diamondbacks' minor league medical coordinator was PJ Mainville, a friend and past co-worker of Dr. H's.
After a long and rigorous interview process I was given the opportunity to have a one of a kind educational experience with the Arizona Diamondbacks, working at their minor league facilities in Tucson, AZ and then with their minor league team in South Bend, IN, the Silverhawks. A few weeks after finally landing the internship with the Diamondbacks, I received an email from Kevin Harmon. The email was an invitation to work with the Texas Rangers for a home stand, an opportunity only extended to a select few candidates. After jumping around my room in elation I called everyone that cared to listen about my once in a lifetime opportunity.
I made my way down to Arlington for a six game home stand against the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox. As I walked into the clubhouse the only word that could come to mind was surreal. As I walked into the training room I was greeted by Kevin Harmon and the head athletic trainer Jamie Reed. The training room wasn't big and all the tables were full. Kevin Millwood was completing a crossword puzzle on one; Andruw Jones was getting stretched on another; and on one of the taping tables Josh Hamilton was getting a high, white and tight. Kevin Harmon explained my role; I could do anything and everything EXCEPT stretch out a pitcher. I administered ultrasound, laser, Interx, and hivamat; I supervised shoulder and elbow rehabs; I helped Kevin Millwood with his crossword puzzles; I stretched out position players; I made and wrapped on at least 100 ice towels.
During the games I would retrieve water and give the players ice towels between innings (Texas was in a heat wave that week, 100+ degrees every day). What did I learn down in Texas? I learned quickly the inner workings of a pro baseball team. I learned that baseball players are tremendously superstitious. My first two games in the dugout were losses, multiple players threatened to kick me out of the dugout had I brought them one more loss (my end record was 4-2). I also learned that no matter how healthy a pitcher is, if he doesn't feel right, you don't play him (this was advice from Jamie, he has had multiple healthy pitchers injured that didn't feel right that day). The biggest thing I learned was how to break out of my quiet shell, because in a clubhouse, if you don't stand up for yourself and talk s*** back, the players, coaches, and clubbies will tear you apart.
This experience was a great opportunity for me. I wish I had photos or autographs to share, but I was asked not to ask for them (unprofessional and all). I am still interested in a career in baseball, but as of right now I am leaning more toward a Division I collegiate baseball position.