SANTA FE, N.M. — Christmas came a smidge early for St. Michael’s High School graduate Ron Porterfield.
The longtime Tampa Bay Rays head trainer was recently hired as the director of player health for the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I’m still an athletic trainer by trade, but now I’m more the overseer of the medical staff,” he said. “I’ll support the entire organization from the major leagues to the low minor leagues.”
Porterfield, 53, graduated from St. Mike’s in 1983 and his time there included a standout athletic career, playing football, basketball, baseball and track, earning All-State honors as a quarterback and kicker in football and as a shortstop in baseball.
He attended New Mexico State, briefly playing on the football team, before moving over to the diamond to play some baseball with Aggies.
And it was while in Las Cruces that he had a sort of epiphany in life.
“I played football for a little while, but then I quit playing,” Porterfield said. “After a year or so, I got bored and walked on to the baseball team and ended up playing baseball for a couple of years. But I realized there was no way in heck I was going to make a living being an athlete, so got into athletic training side of it.”
It turned out to be a very wise decision.
“I had plans to go into physical therapy and get my masters,” he said. “But one summer I worked with the Houston Astros and they offered me a job after passing my certification. I went to work for them in 1988 and never turned back.”
Porterfield served as an athletic trainer in the Houston Astros organization for nine years, then served as the Rays’ assistant trainer for three years after six seasons as a minor-league medical and rehabilitation coordinator. In 2006, he was promoted to Rays’ head athletic trainer.
In 2009, Porterfield and his assistant athletic trainers were named Major League Medical Staff of the Year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS). In 2008, he was honored with the prestigious American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) Career Service Award, which “recognizes individuals who have provided a career of exemplary care to the baseball players,” according to a Dodgers news release.
Porterfield’s new position is one the Dodgers are creating and is modeled after similar positions that other organizations have developed. There had been discussions with then-Rays general manager Andrew Friedman about a similar position with Tampa Bay, so it was no surprise that after Friedman moved to L.A. as the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, he called on Porterfield.
“In a nutshell, I’ll be using my experience to aid all our athletic trainers and physical therapists,” Porterfield said. I’ll be taking some of the daily duties and responsibilities that don’t relate to the guys on the field – paperwork, doctors’ visits workman’s comp – off their plate so they don’t have to spend as much time with that kind of stuff. I’ll be helping to support those staff members, and be as prudent and diligent in running the program as efficiently as possible.”
Porterfield will be based out of Glendale, Ariz., where the Dodgers have their spring training camp.
“I’ll still be active in the athletic training room on a daily basis, but in a different role,” he said. “I won’t have to be on the front lines, I’ll be the support system.”