By: Larry M. Starr, Ed.D., LAT, ATC, CSCS, USPTA, President, Starr Athletic Solutions
When the first informal, “clandestine” discussions of forming the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) were held in Bill Buhler’s and Gene Gieselmann’s hotel rooms in 1981 and 1982, respectively, professional baseball athletic trainers’ relationship with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) was, at best, cautiously cordial. Since professional baseball athletic trainers rarely, if ever, attended NATA’s annual meeting, we were basically an unknown commodity. There was also a fear of management reprisals caused by the misnomer that we were creating a union, similar to what the players had done a number of years previously. However, thanks to the leadership of Gieselmann, Buhler, Charlie Moss (first president), Jeff Cooper (constitution), Dave Pursley (first treasurer) and others, PBATS was formed in 1983.
It would take almost seven years before PBATS could hold its meetings in conjunction with the MLB Winter Meetings. Obviously, this relationship has grown exponentially over the years, and PBATS is now recognized as a vital and important part of the fabric of Major and Minor League Baseball. With continued great leadership from President Moss through to current President Mark O’Neil, PBATS continues its mission “to encourage, promote, and provide the ideas, techniques, and data necessary to improve the care of professional baseball players.”
The relationship with the NATA did not take the same linear progression. In 1984, PBATS established a scholarship committee that would provide $1,000 to athletic training students through the NATA. In addition, PBATS strived to ensure all new MLB ATs were NATA certified. The first PBATS educational presentation was at the NATA Clinical Symposia and AT Expo in 1986 in Las Vegas, and we have offered presentations every year since.
The 1990 MLB Winter Meetings was a turning point in the relationship between PBATS and the NATA. That same year, President Kent Biggerstaff was given the opportunity to address the NATA executive meeting, and NATA Executive Director Eve Becker-Doyle and NATA President Kent Falb were invited to the PBATS hospitality suite for some informal discussions about PBATS and the NATA, providing two intimate opportunities to solidify the relationship and align on priorities for the two organizations.
From then on, the relationship between the NATA and PBATS has flourished. PBATS continues to have educational presentations at each NATA annual meeting and has increased the number of annual scholarships. PBATS also now has a much stronger presence at the NATA annual meeting, with the scholarship recipients being recognized at the annual Pinky Newell Scholarship and Student Leadership Reception.
Where we saw continued room for improvement was addressing the lack of MLB ATs in the NATA Hall of Fame. It was felt that more exposure and input by PBATS members at NATA’s annual meeting would help in this issue. Since it was still difficult for the active members to attend, we sent PBATS alumni, which had grown to almost 75 members by this time. And thus, under the guidance and development of Mark Letendre, the PBATS Alumni Society was born. PBATS alumni were now front and center at numerous receptions, roundtables, events and education sessions at the NATA annual meeting.
This increased and improved presence has not gone unnoticed by the NATA board of directors and other prominent committee members, including the Hall of Fame committee. The PBATS Alumni Society, now led by Sandor Krum, continues to promote PBATS members within NATA and works to recognize their outstanding service to the athletic training profession.