Two students in Lynchburg’s athletic training program have been spending lots of time at the local ballpark lately, learning about how to keep professional baseball players on the field and off the disabled list.
Since opening day in April, Zack Maust ’19 MSAT and Rachael Watkins ’19 have been doing a clinical rotation with the Lynchburg Hillcats, a Class-A Advanced Affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Under the supervision of Hillcats head trainer Bobby Ruiz, they’ve been performing a variety of duties for the team.
Maust, who is working on a Master of Science in Athletic Training, said what they do “include[s] a lot of preventative maintenance work to keep guys healthy on a day-to-day basis. When I first get in every day, we set up the athletic training room for the day — ice, towels, hot tub, set up the field, restock supplies, etc.
“Once the players start rolling in, I do a lot of stretching, joint mobilizations, manual [therapy], soft-tissue work, provide ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or whatever they may need to stay healthy or to help rehab from whatever may be ailing them.”
Both Maust and Watkins have worked with intercollegiate athletic teams at Lynchburg and Maust worked with Virginia Tech’s football team, while earning his bachelor’s degree at VT. Later this summer, he’ll head across town to Liberty University for a clinical rotation with LU’s football team.
Neither Maust nor Watkins had worked with a professional team before this spring. “I feel blessed to have gotten this experience,” Maust said. “I have learned a lot of things that you can only learn through experience and [Ruiz] is experienced and loves to teach, so I’m getting the best of both worlds there.”
Watkins is a member of the last Lynchburg undergraduate student class to earn a bachelor’s degree in athletic training, as the program has evolved to the MSAT. She said working with the Hillcats has been eye opening for her. “The biggest thing I’ve learned during my time with the Hillcats is how important the role of an athletic trainer in a professional setting is,” she said. “The athletic trainer assists the coaching staff and team in so many ways, some ways I wasn’t even aware of.”
After he graduates in 2019, Maust plans to pursue a career at the collegiate level. “I loved working with football at VT and I think that my dream job would be to go back there and work,” he said. “I do love baseball and could also see myself working in college with a baseball program as well.”
Watkins has similar goals. “My intentions are to continue my athletic training education in a graduate school setting, while working as an athletic trainer,” she said. “I enjoyed the professional sports setting, so hopefully I can eventually work with some professional women’s teams or, if not, in a high school setting.”
Maust and Watkins applied for the internship with the Hillcats through the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society, with help from Emily Evans, Lynchburg’s coordinator of clinical education. “My clinical coordinator knew that I was very interested in working with baseball, as well as working with athletes at a very high level,” Maust said. “When this opportunity presented itself, she helped me get the ball rolling and I applied through the PBATS for an internship and was able to get that. Emily told me about it. She was very instrumental in that.”