Welcome to Inside the Game #010. Last week in the we sat down with Tommy Craig of the Milwaukee Brewers for installment #009, you can find that here.
This week, we had the opportunity to speak with TJ Saunders, Athletic Trainer for the Detroit Tigers affiliate, the Double-A Erie Seawolves. Before starting his career in baseball, TJ earned his undergraduate degree from Florida State University. He then went on to earn his Master’s degree from The University of Tennessee – Knoxville.
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?
TJ Saunders: I knew in high school that I wanted to be an athletic trainer. My school had intro to sports medicine classes taught by our ATC, and after taking those I knew it was the career I wanted to pursue.
PBATS: How did you get your start in baseball?
TS: After finishing undergrad, I spent a summer working in independent baseball, for the Canton Coyotes of the Frontier League. It was a great experience. I liked the environment and atmosphere, the more relaxed nature of the players and staff. I knew then and there I wanted to continue within baseball.
PBATS: What is your favorite part about being an athletic trainer?
TS: I love getting my injured athletes better. Going through the stages of a rehab, the progressions to getting them back on the field and seeing them be successful. Being a part of that is very rewarding.
PBATS: What is your favorite memory from working in baseball?
TS: I have so many. Seeing players I have had in the minor leagues achieve their dream of playing in the big leagues. Watching guys who have rehabbed injuries come back and play with success. Meeting all the amazing people that I have had the blessing to know and call friends. Baseball in itself affords so many great opportunities, so there is no way to pick one favorite memory.
PBATS: What are your goals for your career in athletic training?
TS: My goal is to do my best every day to help my athletes and my team. Professionally, I would love to work in the big leagues.
PBATS: What are some of the most interesting parts of your job that most people might not be aware of?
TS: I don’t think the general population understands all that a minor league ATC is responsible for. Travel arrangements, team itineraries, administrative work and team logistics. There is a lot more to being a minor league ATC than simply sports medicine.
PBATS: What is a typical day at the park like for an athletic trainer?
TS: I typically arrive at the park 6-7 hours before a game. Preparing for my treatments, managing administrative and record keeping duties. When the athletes arrive it is full speed treatments, rehabs, stretching and preparing my players to take the field. Game time comes and it is actually “down time” in a sense that I am prepared for what may come on the field, but not nearly as busy as pre-game.
Once the game is over there are more treatments as needed, record keeping and logging my treatments for the day, and preparing my injury report. Eventually my day comes to an end about 10-11 hours after it starts.
PBATS: What are your favorite things to do in the off-season?
TS: I love to spend my off-season time on the water fishing. My off-season “job” is as a fishing guide. Being on the water helps to decompress from the season and recharge the batteries for the upcoming spring training.
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?
TS: As young athletic training students, or even entry-level athletic trainers, it is important to be confident in yourself. It is okay to not know it all, but know where to find answers to what you need to know. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your peers in the game, your doctors, and other athletic trainers. Sharing of ideas or concepts helps us all get better as professionals.
A huge thanks to TJ for taking some time to join us for Inside the Game #010. Please let us know if you have any specific questions that you’d like to see answered throughout this series. We’d love your feedback, as we hope to make this series as valuable and informative as possible to all of those interested in athletic training in the game of baseball.