Sunday, February 11, 2007
State a Trainer Hotbed
By Will Webber
Journal Staff Writer
As he stood in the Arizona Diamondbacks' dugout and watched Luis Gonzalez's bloop single drive home the winning run in the 2001 World Series, Dave Edwards admits he had a moment of reflection as he prepared to run onto the field to celebrate the title.
"I'm standing there next to the team's traveling secretary thinking about how a guy from a little town in New Mexico got a chance to be there," he said. "Amazing. Truly amazing."
Maybe, but something more remarkable is the pipeline the Deming native and three of his college buddies rode to the major leagues. Not one of them swung a bat or fielded a ground ball to get there.
Edwards, 41, is an assistant trainer with Diamondbacks. Has been since the franchise was launched in the mid-1990s.
His boss, 39-year-old Ken Crenshaw, is the team's head trainer and a graduate of Carrizozo High School. Before that he was the head trainer with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a team that employed his former college roommate, Ron Porterfield, 41.
When Crenshaw left for Arizona after the 2005 season, Porterfield, a Santa Fe native and St. Michael's graduate, succeeded him.
The trio studied in college with Mike Sandoval, 41. A Raton native whose family still lives in New Mexico, he has been with the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2001.
All four men studied sports medicine together at New Mexico State University in the late 1980s and early '90s. They broke into professional ball with summer internships during their undergraduate years, stints that became full-time gigs after college.
Like any ballplayer, they slowly worked their way to the show by making frequent stops in baseball's extended farm system. Their initial days were spent in the bush leagues, often taping ankles and mending blisters while enduring the endless bus rides from one small town to another.
"My first job was in Watertown, N.Y.," Sandoval recalls. "There's times you can jump a few levels if you're lucky, but most of the time you're just moving around as often as some of the players."
When each looks back at their humble beginnings, they admit it's special to see a quartet of Aggies getting as far as they have.
"As far as I know there's not another school that's done what NMSU has," Crenshaw said. "We take pride in that. A lot of people have no idea where New Mexico State is but I know I'm always willing to tell them."
"It's kind of a running joke with a lot of people, that we're the guys from that place in Mexico," Edwards said.
The perks of working with a major league team are obvious. The pay is good, the amenities are first-rate and the travel well, it's good and bad.
Porterfield said trainers make every road trip with the team and spend roughly three months living out of a suitcase during the regular season.
"That part of it can get hard, especially if you're a family man," said Crenshaw, a husband and father of three. "It's pretty much 12 hours a day once the season starts and maybe eight to 10 the rest of the time."
For Edwards, getting a world championship ring has been the highlight of his career.
"It all kind of hit home that year because of what the team did, the 9/11 stuff and the World Series in New York," he says.
Porterfield and Sandoval can only dream about reaching the postseason. Tampa Bay has never had a winning record, while the Pirates have long been a punching bag in the National League.
"Everybody wants to win and get to the playoffs, but I honestly don't think wins and losses matter to the training staff," Sandoval said. "The goal with any of us is keeping our players healthy and making sure we do everything we can to keep these guys on the field."
Ironically, it was being knocked off the field that got the four into sports medicine in the first place. Edwards suffered two major injuries as a teenager, one of which required ankle surgery.
"A lot of what I went through could have been prevented had I just gotten the proper medical attention," he said. "That pushed me into (athletic training)."
Same for Crenshaw: "I didn't even know what an athletic trainer was. All I knew was I went into a room after getting hurt in high school and came out feeling better."
And now it's the four of them who are doing the healing while dispensing advice over preventative measures.
"Getting here was like a dream come true for all of us," says Sandoval. "For me, Pittsburgh has been the perfect fit. The team has a brand new stadium, the facilities are great and the situation for my family couldn't be better."
"It's like a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Crenshaw said. "I realize a shot like this doesn't come along too often, and the fact that four of us from one school got it is really something."
MORE MLB TIES: Another NMSU graduate, Nathan Lucero, was recently named the head strength and conditioning coach with the Houston Astros ... Three major league umpires also have ties to New Mexico State. Mike Everitt, Tony Randazzo and Doug Eddings have all been calling games in the big leagues since 1999. Eddings still lives in the state. Among his career highlights is working the plate for Cal Ripken Jr.'s last game on Oct. 6, 2001.