Originally created 08/31/02

Trainer enjoys his 'specialty'



Nobody told Mark Ryan about the sea of red tape.

White tape, like the sticky stuff athletic trainers use to wrap sore wrists and ankles, has always been his specialty.

Back in sports medicine school, nobody told Ryan, the Augusta GreenJackets trainer, that working in minor-league baseball would be one part medical, one part clerical.

"In my former athletic trainer positions, you were strictly an injury guy, doing rehab and injury assessments," Ryan says. "But when I got into baseball last year, I learned the ins and outs pretty quick. It's 25 percent injuries, 25 percent strength and conditioning and 50 percent paperwork."

Ryan isn't complaining. Handling duties such as team travel and payroll is a small price to pay for a chance to work in baseball. Especially for a farm club of the team he grew up rooting for - the Boston Red Sox.

Early in his career, Ryan worked as a trainer at his alma mater, Illinois State University, and also at Colorado State. He later worked in health clubs and sports medicine clinics, but wanted to get back into team sports.

"I'm a big fan of baseball, and when I grew up dreaming up the sports doctor thing as a kid, this is what I wanted to do," says Ryan, 36. "I was working at a clinic in upstate New York and it just wasn't satisfying. I wanted to be on a team."

The Red Sox hired him last year as the assistant trainer with their Double-A affiliate in Trenton, N.J., then handed him the top job with the GreenJackets this season.

"You have to be lucky to have an opportunity like this happen," Ryan says. "I was lucky enough not only to get a job, but to get a job with a full-season team."

When the Jackets are home, Ryan's day begins around 10 a.m. with a trip to the gym for players' workouts or with a round of other errands, including stops at the post office or pharmacy.

Ryan arrives at the ballpark each day by noon to begin knocking out medical reports and other administrative duties. Along with preparing the Augusta training room for the day, he must get the training room in the visitor's clubhouse ready, stocking it with necessities such as towels, ice and cups and medical supplies.

By 1:30 p.m., injured players arrive for treatment. By 4 p.m., Ryan leads the players in a team stretch and warmup on the field.

Fifteen minutes later, batting practice begins. For Ryan, that's when the real fun begins.

"It's that one time where I've got no paperwork or anything else to do for about 45 minutes, and I get to fool around on the field shagging flies and stuff," Ryan says. "That's the fun part for me. Playing in the grass and being a kid again."

But after his fun, it's back to work.

During games, Ryan is in the dugout tending to players. After the game, he is available for medical treatment, and must file a daily report with the Red Sox before calling it a night.

"You have to do a lot of dirty work that guys in the major leagues don't have to do," Ryan says. "But I love it. I'd love to make it to the major leagues, but if I worked the rest of my career in the minors, I'd be happy."