by Martin Schlegel
As the Major League Baseball season swings into its full momentum, so too do many area students’ cheers for the Minnesota Twins. But athletic training junior Shunichi Takitsu has an unlikely connection to another team — the Texas Rangers, which he interned with during the team’s spring training.
Takitsu got involved with the Rangers through a partnership between the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society and the Japan Baseball Athletic Trainers Society. PBATS’s mission is to serve as an educatational resource for athletic trainers. JBATS, the other partner, specifically targets Japanese students majoring in athletic training abroad in the United States or in Japan. The program started in the early ‘90s and accepts six students from each country.
The societies’ 12 selected students, Takitsu included, flew to Arizona in March to intern with one of six MLB teams they’re partnered with: the Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.
A JBATS representative contacted Takitsu’s advisor, Dawn Hammerschmidt, earlier this year, asking if he would like to intern in the program. He ended up spending 10 days with the Rangers — days he said he’s “extremely lucky” to have had.
After working with Rangers training staff, Takitsu stayed for a seminar on athletic training. He said the trip was a benefit to his career, adding that it “looks great on a resume.”
He said pursuing a career in athletic training has allowed him to stay involved in sports like soccer, tennis and snowboarding, which he played before coming to MSUM.
“I will never be like the pros I worked with,” Takitsu said, “but I can still be around them, and that feels satisfying.”
Takitsu said he doesn’t know of any other MSUM students who have participated in the program, adding that the internship introduced him to techniques his classes haven’t taught him — a new form of muscle relaxation, for example, that uses a low-intensity laser to relax players’ muscles. The Rangers had a brand new machine for the trainers that he was able to try it out on some players.
A typical day in the program had Takitsu working at the Rangers’ spring training complex for about 12 hours. He assisted the team’s trainers, cleaning the medical room, observing athletes’ stretching routines and working with a few of the players individually. Takitsu said he worked with a few athletes who were rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, a surgical graft procedure in which an elbow ligament is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.
“It was really cool to get to work with the players,” Takitsu said.
During the spring training games, he stood in the dugout and talked to players like Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis, a 36-year-old veteran who spent two seasons of his long professional career pitching for the Hiroshima Carp, a Japan Central League team.
“He knew a little Japanese, so we talked back and forth,” Takitsu said, adding it wasn’t just the trainers he learned from.
“I talked to several players and learned some Spanish,” he said with a chuckle. “I also taught them some Japanese.”
While Takitsu enjoyed the experience, he still has an interest in athletic training for other sports.
“I don’t want to limit my future to one sport,” he said. “I’m still open to all possibilities.”