Wear and tear in any sport can take its toll. It's why today's athletes are in better condition than ever and their regimen basically 24/7/365.
Ole Miss had an opening for its baseball trainer position during the early portion of the 2004 season. Eric Gahan of St. Bonaventure was busy with things at the southwest New York school.
As a matter of fact, the baseball team there was headed toward a championship season and an NCAA baseball regional as well.
St. Bonaventure, where Gahan worked for a year and a half, won the Atlantic 10 Conference in baseball last spring. The Bonnies were chosen for an NCAA Regional, and by that time Gahan was the baseball trainer for the Ole Miss Rebels, who were hosting one of the 16 NCAA Regionals.
"A lot of the players from St. Bonaventure were calling me and saying wouldn't it be something if we came down and played in the Oxford Regional," Gahan said. "But it didn't quite work out that way."
The Bonnies went to Miami for the regional. Gahan helped out at his new home – Oxford. The Rebels were hosting their first baseball regional.
For Gahan it had all been a whirlwind few months.
"The way it worked out last year was I actually interviewed for this job (at Ole Miss) while I was running the Atlantic-10 swimming and diving championships," Gahan said. "I was the director of sports medicine for that. So I was running that tournament, which was at St. Bonaventure, while I came down here and interviewed. I had a lot going on at that time."
Gahan, a graduate of Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., with a graduate degree from Kentucky, got the Ole Miss job and started in early March. As soon as he arrived in Oxford, there was work to be done.
"It was amazing how quickly the players accepted me," he said. "I got here and just jumped right in. We had to overcome some injuries last season, and we started that right away."
A lot of people at Ole Miss helped him from the start.
"I just couldn't have asked for a better staff to help me with the transition than the people who were already here (at Ole Miss)," Gahan said. "When we were looking to host a regional, they all pitched in and helped so much. It was such a team effort."
Gahan says he tries as much as possible to take care of all the needs of the baseball program that fall in his area of expertise.
"I rehab everyone that can play," he said. "I have all the capabilities here to do that. I oversee everyone's rehab. Even though we have physical therapists, I keep up with everyone, and Shannon does too. (Shannon Singletary is Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine at UM). We're all involved in it."
Gahan says basically every situation he deals with is different and every player a new and often unique challenge. But in some respects there is some continuity as far as a player's role on the team.
"There's a certain psychological aspect to it, especially with pitchers," he said. "Keeping them in a routine is important and keeping a comfort zone for them. In terms of treatment and rehab, keeping their arm strong is important. I take care of my pitchers, and I take care of my position players.
"You don't like to separate them, because they all get the same treatment and care. Pitchers are rehabbed differently. Many of them pitch once a week. There's just a different mentality in baseball, and a lot of it has to do with how many games a team plays in a week and also the fact that we play 56 games. It's not like football where you're trying to get everybody ready for the same time on a Saturday."
Gahan says the Ole Miss situation has been all he could ask for.
"I like working here a lot," Gahan said. "The people are great. When I was at Kentucky, I had no idea I'd be working at Ole Miss. It's interesting how things work out. Even though we're bigtime athletics, it has a smaller feel to it. I know Shannon well. I know Tim Mullins well. I know our whole staff well. We communicate very well. I know the administration. I've had conversations with Pete Boone and the Chancellor. They're all very supportive."
Gahan says it's nice being back in the big arena that is SEC sports.
"It's been great going around to all the SEC schools and seeing what they've got and how they do things," he said. "I've always been a college baseball fan, and so it's great to be able be a part of all this. I like to see what other schools are doing in my area. I think all trainers do that. On road trips I will go talk to the trainer and take a look at their training room and talk about how they do things. We all bounce things off each other."
Gahan says the transition from the Northeast/Middle Atlantic region of the country to Mississippi has not been as dramatic as some might think.
"Most people think when they hear I'm from New York think I'm from New York City. But that's not right. I'm from a small town in upstate New York that is very similar to this area. My hometown of Ilion has 12,000 people, and I graduated with 133 people in my class. I think a lot of that is why I feel I've adapted well here."
The players agree that Gahan has been a big help to them the past year.
"He does a great job," said Rebel junior pitcher Tommy Baumgardner. "He's there in the mornings if we need to go in and get things done. Then before practice and on road trips he's there for us. He does a lot to keep us healthy. That's his main priority – our health. He's been great about taking care of situations before they get too far along."
"He really takes his job seriously," junior Rebel Stephen Head said. "He does everything first class. The way he handles the treatment and rehab process, he tries to make it as convenient for the players as possible. He goes out of his way to not only get you healthy but work with your schedule. We're around him a lot. He's really good at what he does, and we see that every day."
Ole Miss Coach Mike Bianco speaks in glowing terms of Gahan.
"He's the best I've ever had at any school at any time," Bianco said. "He's very professional. The players really respect him. He knows how to push them to get them stronger. He's easy for them to talk to and is very approachable. They realize going ahead and seeing him doesn't necessarily mean you're not going to play. He has a lot of knowledge about what he is doing, and if he has questions he calls or researches and figures it all out."
Bianco says being a trainer for a baseball team is not quite as cut and dried as it may sound.
"There are guys that see him regularly that aren't hurt," he said. "Just because you see the trainer does not necessarily mean you aren't playing. I think that's one of the big misnomers about what a trainer does, that he only gets the guys who are injured or can't play. Certainly that's true in a sense. But he's working with guys who are rehabbing and getting them ready to play again. And he's the guy who keeps them on the field. He takes care of things early rather than say allowing a weak shoulder to turn into a sore shoulder, which turns into tendonitis, and then the guy sits out a week. I think Eric is very proactive in what he does and if a guy feels a little soreness, he gets on it right away."
Gahan says he understands how important it is to make sure players can play the games.
"My philosophy is that I like to have structure and organization with these guys," he said. "They're young kids and they need that. I need to make sure that if they have even something like a sore shoulder that they come in so we can knock that out and keep them strong and on that field. I try to provide the best health care to these guys, the most treatment and health care they need to stay out there on the field or to get them back out there as soon as possible.
"I guess what it comes down to is that it's all about the athletes. Making sure they can play is why I'm here."
He keeps the Rebels playing
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