The hardest working person on a minor league baseball team is the athletic trainer.
And it’s not even close.
In addition to the “trainer” part of the job (evaluating injuries, overseeing rehabilitation, taping ankles, etc), the minor league trainer also helps to coordinate team travel, monitor strength and conditioning, and even occasionally drive the team van on the road.
For the past five years, Greg Barajas has done all that and more for the Pawtucket Red Sox, but we won’t have him to depend on next season. Earlier this week Barajas was named Assistant Trainer for the Boston Red Sox under Mike Reinhold.
“I was shocked,” Greg told me a few days after receiving the news. “Not in the sense that I don’t think that I can do the job – but shocked in the sense that I’ve finally realized one of my dreams. From the very beginning as an undergraduate I said, ‘If I’m going to do athletic training, I’d like to do major league baseball.’ It’s been a process of 13 to 14 years to get to the point where now I can say that I’m a major league baseball athletic trainer. I don’t know if it will fully sink in until I get to Fenway for the first game.”
I often joke with Steve Hyder about how crazy we are to pursue major league baseball broadcasting jobs. By my count, there are roughly 80 English-speaking broadcasters in the big leagues who are not former MLB players. It’s an exclusive – and difficult – club to join.
But it’s probably even tougher for an athletic trainer. There are generally two trainers on each of the 30 MLB teams for a total of 60 jobs.
“It’s definitely a hard job market to break into and some guys never do it, so I feel very honored that I’ve made it this far,” Barajas said. “It’s almost like hitting the lottery, but you know that you put in the time and the effort as well.”
“I started with the Milwaukee Brewers organization in rookie ball in Helena, Montana. It was a short season team that starts in June and ends at the beginning of September. The stadium probably had probably 3,000 seats and there were probably 10 people in the stands for some games and half of them were selling souvenirs. To go from that to working at Fenway Park for one of the most-watched teams in the world . . . you probably can’t find two more opposite settings.”
And now that he’s reached the big leagues, Greg’s job title will finally be accurate.
“Now all I am responsible for is athletic training, and that’s going to be a big relief during the season,” Barajas said. “All I have to concentrate on is what I actually went to school for. Athletic training in the minor leagues requires you to do a whole bunch of jobs just so you can do the job that you love. I definitely won’t miss having to deal with airline ticket desks at 6:30 in the morning after getting two hours of sleep.”