I have a question for you. Well, several really.
Would you hire…
… a doctor who smoked?
…an emaciated chef?
…a nutritionist who eats junk food?
… or even a wardrobe consultant who didn’t dress well?
Of course you wouldn’t.
Now, would you hire a trainer for your sports team who didn’t look physically fit?
We all know the answer to that one but obviously those making the hiring decisions for the Tigers don’t.
(And for those of you who are about to jump to conclusions and raise the issue of discrimination against certain groups, I’m going to stop you right here. The only thing that matters is whether an individual is suited for their profession and fully capable of performing at least the minimal standards that their jobs require. Nothing else.)
Once again, we were forced to watch the Tigers’ team trainer struggle to get to a fallen player on the field the other day. The Tigers’ Niko Goodrum had a violent collision with his teammate and was lying still on the ground for a disturbing amount of time. Several players rushed over to him and everyone stood around waiting for the trainer to come out.
Then we saw him. Obviously having difficulty climbing the stairs of the dugout with his hand firmly gripping the railing to help him ascend. And then the walk. He is not capable of running or even jogging.
And the Tigers, and Niko, waited.
On the other hand, later in the game, the Astros trainer had to attend to one of his injured players. In stark contrast, he took the dugout stairs two at a time and went racing to the scene. His player was down on the ground, like Niko, but this trainer had the capability of also getting fully prone on the ground in a better position to ascertain more about the injury.
If you think that Jeremiah Randall, the Astros’ head trainer, is the exception, he is not. I have spent most of this year checking out each team’s head trainer and can report that the majority are just like Randall.
They look physically fit. They look like personal trainers. There is minimal body fat and maximum lean muscle tissue. They are not big and bulky. They are lean machines who look like professional athletes or at least active military personnel.
You see the muscle definition in them. You see the biceps and when they are in shorts, also the calf definition. And you know that there is a 6-pack lurking under their team shirts.
Most of them skew on the younger side – 30’s and early 40’s. And all of the men appear to be in the 170 lb. range with ideal BMI. There is also MLB’s second female head trainer, Nikki Huffman, to whom I can attest that almost every woman out there would swap bodies with in a flash.
And if you went to the gym looking for a personal trainer to get you in serious shape, you’d want to hire most of these team trainers to do the job.
I know personal trainers. I’ve worked with them regularly since my 20’s. I also coordinate with several professional sports team trainers when I work with my athlete clients. I know what they do and the discipline required to do it.
I also work out at a serious gym owned by a former Olympic athlete. He is a perfectionist and all of the personal trainers he employs are the best, including my own.
She’s a tiny thing with a loud voice, constant high energy and continuously moving. She also has the uncanny ability to coerce me into doing any exercise she wants, no matter how terrifying it is. And she is right there with me, doing the same exercises and correcting my form.
And then there’s my physical therapist who regularly keeps me aligned in order to prevent injury. She’s got the face of Jessica Alba, the body of a ballet dancer and the hands of a killer. She is also high energy and the perfect specimen of someone who keeps their body in tip-top shape.
The point is that both of these people look the part. They look physically better than the majority of the population. And that is one of the most important reasons why I hired them. They are walking advertisements for the quality of the work they perform. They sell themselves.
They walk the walk.
And when you look at all the head trainers for each MLB team, almost all of them also look the part. In fact, many of them came from backgrounds in which they were experts in their field and ran entire companies or were in residency at medical centers focused on promoting and practicing the latest and greatest physical health advances. They have multiple degrees and certifications.
A number of them, like Randall, are highly sought speakers in the off-season to the medical communities and PBATS conferences. And Randall also spends part of his off-season working with rehabbing seriously wounded war veterans in addition to his regular work keeping the Astros healthy and conditioned.
I don’t see any of these patterns with the Tigers’ staff. I can’t even tell you the last time I saw a head trainer there who looked like one.
And I wonder how someone who has a hard time moving around, who lacks flexibility and agility, can work with a player and show him proper form. How to perform an exercise and not get injured doing it. If you are not capable of even kneeling on the ground to tend to an injured player, how can you show them proper training form?
And if it appears that core exercises are not part of your regular routine, what are the chances they will address it with their own players? And now that Iggy has been shelved for what may be his last performance as a Tiger, have you also lost count of how many Tigers have been downed over the past 4 years because of core muscle-related injuries?
The former head trainer now oversees the entire training, conditioning and medical programs for both the Tigers and all of their minor leagues. He was promoted. He’s been working for a series of Tiger management since 1993. The current one has also been with the Tigers since 1993. The new assistant trainer has been with the Tigers since 1996.
There’s that dang pattern again.
No other team in MLB has any trainer with multiple decades of employment. We’re talking a quarter of a century. Heck, many of today’s trainers were toddlers when Dave Dombrowski hired his when he was still in Montreal and Florida.
Maybe the Tigers need to realize that it’s no longer the 1990’s. Things change in 3 decades. Training changes. Advancements are discovered. New strategies succeed old ones.
But will the Tigers actually change? Will they finally decide to enter the 21st Century and show us updated training programs led by trainers who walk the walk? Will we actually be able to go to Lakeland and not be horrified by the antiquated conditioning drills we see?
That is the real question.
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