Welcome back, and thanks for your interest in Inside the Game #004. Last week in the we sat down with Davey LaCroix of the Cincinnati Reds for #003, you can find that here. This week, we had the opportunity to speak with Josh Seligman of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Josh, who is dual certified as a strength coach and athletic trainer, currently works as the Brewers head strength and conditioning coach. Before starting his career in baseball, Josh earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii.
Check out the interview below and let us know what you think in the comments section.
PBATS: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in athletic training?
Josh Seligman: Before I answer the question, full disclosure here in that I am currently the head strength and conditioning coach for the Brewers. I am dual certified and started in the minors as an athletic trainer, but ended up as a strength coach. I believe there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the two disciplines and having the athletic training background certainly helps with the communication and trust from the rest of the medical staff. I believe a strong collaborative relationship between the two “rooms” is extremely important in the overall success of both disciplines. Too often I see a wide disconnect that cripples the efficacy of both entities.
Now back to the original question – I was working as a personal trainer while getting my Masters Degree in Nutrition. There were a lot of little aches and pains that my clients would have that I wanted to learn how to deal with better, so I looked into taking an elective that could help me. I read through some undergrad course descriptions and found one that I liked. What I didn’t realize is that you needed special permission to get into the class so I setup a meeting with the department head. She grilled me for two hours on everything; why I wanted to take the class, knowledge of anatomy/physiology, physics, my perceived work ethic and more. When the meeting was over, I wasn’t sure what happened, but I was enrolled in the class, and had to report to the Athletic Training Room everyday twice a day (early morning and after class). I had no idea what I was in for, but I ended up loving everything about working there. After that first semester I knew counseling people on food and having them NOT listen to what I was saying was no longer what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a baseball athletic trainer. The department head ended up being one of my greatest mentors. I actually ended up finishing up my Masters Degree in Athletic Training before I finished the one in Nutrition.
PBATS: How did you get your start in baseball?
JS: I played baseball in college, but knew I wasn’t good enough to play beyond, but I still wanted to be involved in the game. I was very interested in Nutrition and performance at the time, so my goal was to get a Masters in Nutrition and become a Major League Baseball Nutritionist. Once I got into athletic training I saw a much more fulfilling route. One with defined steps I could take to make it to the Big Leagues. Halfway through my Athletic Training degree another athletic trainer was working for an independent team in the summer, so I interned with them for a season. Then I took over the next year. By the time I graduated I had been following the PBATS website and knew of the Job Board. I applied to several jobs and was able to get a job in High A with the Marlins.
PBATS: What is your favorite part about being an athletic trainer?
JS: The absolute undulating unpredictability of everyday; the broad challenges of people; the fascinating problem solving necessary when dealing with the human body and athletics; the raw truth of competition- a peeling away of layers of political correctness and pervasive social niceness – which makes losing revealing and winning so sweet. Sometimes your hardest work is not good enough, and that teaches you something about life. Sometimes there is magic in winning that is rare and wonderful.
PBATS: What is your favorite memory from working in baseball?
JS: I have two.
I remember the day I was offered a Major League job. I had just had a baby, and my wife and I were taking her for a walk. I had worked so long in college, grad school, and minor leagues to get to that point; it felt so casual. “We’d like to offer you the job with the Milwaukee Brewers,” they said. I said ok, but I will never forget that.
The second is going to the playoffs and winning the division series on a walk off hit. I was in the weight room with one of our relievers and we both jumped about 6 feet in the air and gave each other five. It was the highest high-five I have ever done!
PBATS: What are your goals for your career in athletic training?
JS: I just want to stay progressive. It’s easy with the grind of the season to settle into a sort of autopilot. I continuously challenge myself to try and stay ahead of the curve with the latest science as well as some things that lay more on the philosophical spectrum. I am very lucky to work with like-minded people to constantly bounce ideas off of and who challenge themselves to not stagnate.
PBATS: What are some of the most interesting parts of your job that most people might not be aware of?
JS: I think it is all the work that we do in the offseason. Many of us get together at various conferences and meetings and discuss a wide spectrum of ideas. It is nice to get together with people who are in the trenches and understand what the challenges are of a baseball season. We also brainstorm as a staff and evaluate any new programs, treatments, modalities, etc. that we will potentially utilize in the upcoming season. Once we decide what we are going to do, we establish a roadmap in our programs, strategies, and systems to make implementation successful. When spring training starts we have upwards of 200 guys that we really haven’t seen for 5-6 months. We have to get up to speed very quickly and comprehensively. There is a lot of planning that happens prior to the season starting, to make sure nobody slips through the cracks, and our interventions are implemented in an efficient and effective manner.
PBATS: What is a typical day at the park like for an athletic trainer?
JS: As I said earlier, I don’t think there really is a typical day in this game. That’s what makes it so great. But on a more generic commentary we get to the park roughly 6- hours before the game (depending on paperwork). Players will start rolling in shortly after that. They come in waves, as relievers and starting pitchers are generally on the field first, followed by position players. Trying to get guys ready to play catch, hit in cages and take BP. There is a small amount of down time to eat quickly then the turnaround for the game. During the game treatments and workouts are ongoing for rehab players, bench players, and relievers as a couple of us monitor the field. We rotate midway through the game for field coverage. After the game it is pretty much all post-game treatments/workouts. You can expect to be at the park for roughly 10 hours, with two off-days off a month. On the off-days we usually come in for about 5 hours depending on treatments and travel schedule.
PBATS: What are your favorite things to do in the off-season?
JS: Usually, I try to unplug the first month and not do any baseball stuff. This involves transitioning back into a more traditional family life where I am around every day. It takes some time to settle back into the “flow” with the wife and kids. We try to take a trip during this time as well. After that I am a huge beach guy, so I will take some surf trips. We also go back to my hometown of Santa Barbara every Christmastime.
PBATS: What advice would you offer young people, college students or anyone looking to get their start in athletic training and the game of baseball?
JS: I would say, make sure you are passionate about this. Athletic training, and especially in baseball, is a huge time commitment. It is certainly one of those professions that you have to love in order to be successful on a day-to-day basis. As with anything that passion should involve curiosity. This should entail a curiosity for the human body, human psyche and anything having to do with profession. If you don’t love what you do in this profession, the grind of the schedule will wear you down. So make sure you are passionate!
A huge thanks to Josh Seligman for taking some time to sit down with us for Inside the Game #004. Please let us know if you have any specific questions that you’d like to see answered throughout this series. Feel free to tweet at us at @PBATS using the hashtag #InsideTheGame.