Hanley Ramirez stopped himself in mid-sentence.
The Dodgers shortstop didn’t want to discredit anybody, just praise the man responsible for pulling his career out of a confounding decline.
Had he never encountered Stan Conte, Ramirez’s surgically repaired shoulder likely would have landed him somewhere other than the verge of his first eight-figure contract.
Upon arrival via trade from the Miami Marlins in 2012, his status as a franchise player was seemingly slipping away. Ramirez credits the Dodgers head athletic trainer for his restoration.
“The difference was, shoot, he (Conte) knew what he was doing,” Ramirez said. “He knew what I needed to get back on that level that I was playing. Rehabbing is everything.”
Athletic trainers are at the center of a web stretched thin between athletes, coaches and front offices, to name a few. They don’t sign checks or fill out lineup cards, but make no mistake, trainers make daily judgment calls with championship ripple effects.
Injuries define the careers of some athletes. (Athletic) Trainers are largely to thank for those who don’t carry that label.
While surgeons like Dr. James Andrews, who operated on Ramirez, and Dr. Robert Watkins have risen to fame in the sports world by transforming career-ending injuries into routine repairs, even they point to the team (athletic) trainers’ realm as the crux of recovery.
Surgery lasts hours. Rehabilitation sometimes can’t be contained to months.