By Ben Lucas ‘12
As another baseball season builds momentum, don’t be surprised if junior Jade Osborne checks the standings to see how the Cleveland Indians are performing.
For three summers and two spring training sessions, Osborne has worked as an intern with the Indians, rehabilitating players and performing other athletic training duties.
Female athletic trainers are rare in major-league locker rooms, but Osborne, an athletic training and exercise science major at Simpson, quickly earned their respect.
“I was really surprised as to how their mindset changed toward me,” she said. “A lot of the players just didn’t take me very seriously at the beginning — a blonde, young girl just walking in and being an athletic trainer for a professional baseball team. Once they realized that I’m actually treating them and I’m going to be there rehabbing them, they started to get the feeling like ‘OK, she might know what she’s doing.’”
Osborne is another example of how Simpson College students prepare for future success by serving internships in their chosen field. Participation in the Guaranteed Internship Program along with the college’s strong ties with the Des Moines business community, provides qualified students with valuable opportunities to complete internships.
In Osborne’s case, however, it was a chance meeting with an Indians player that helped send her to Cleveland.
A native of Goodyear, Ariz., Osborne was working in her parents’ jewelry store when Joey Mahalic, a pitcher in the Indians’ minor-league organization, walked in to have his watch repaired.
After chatting with her about her major and mentioning that he was in Arizona to recover from an injury, Mahalic said the Indians’ head athletic trainer, James Quinlan, was looking for help over the summer. He gave her Quinlan’s number.
A short time later, Osborne found herself working with professional athletes and treating their injuries.
It was an environment that took some getting used to, she said.
“There’s always the sense of being professional (while) being able to joke around, because they are still athletes,” she said. “Just being the only girl there with over 100 other male baseball players, it was fun, but they joke around. You knew what to do, so you kind of had to take charge sometimes, and just being younger, a girl and having to tell a professional player what to do sometimes was very nerve-wracking.”
It helped that Osborne is an athlete herself. She runs cross country and distance in track for Simpson.
“Being an athlete, that did help with conversation, like them asking or just talking about running, or we would just talk about sports in general,” she said. “It was always very easy to relate to them. They were all pretty much my age and they were clearly all athletes.”
She said that she was able to quickly build trust with the players, however, and despite some teasing from them, they would listen to what she told them about their recovery.
“Once they realized that I’d been here before, that this isn’t my first rodeo, they started getting the sense that they might as well joke with me or whatever,” Osborne said. “They did respect me, and they knew that I knew what I was doing, and they knew that what I was doing would make them better.”
Osborne said that besides her experience with treatment methods, she really got a feel for reading people and body language. She became better equipped to see if they were still hurting based on how they would carry themselves or if they were hiding an injury, something that’s more difficult to learn in a classroom.
Don’t expect her to divulge any inside-the-locker room anecdotes about specific players or their injuries. The ethics of the profession prohibit that.
But she did get a personal view of what it takes to be a major-league baseball player.
“They joked around, showed off and goofed off, but they always worked hard and got the job done,” she said. “None of them could really be cocky or talk about themselves a lot because everyone there was in the same boat. They were all injured professional baseball players, they were all talented and they all wanted to get back in the game.”
Osborne won’t spend this summer in Cleveland because she has reached the point where she can no longer earn college credit for working there, something the Indians organization requires of its interns.
But she’d certainly like to return after graduation.
“Working with them, that would be my dream job, and there’s only one other female athletic trainer in the professional baseball world, a female athletic trainer at the AAA level with the Dodgers,” Osborne said. “I’m always talking with the athletic trainers and the coaches of the Indians, and they’re always saying, ‘Well you know Jade, there’s only one other one, might as well try to get the opportunity.’
“I know I can, and I think the main reason why many women aren’t head athletic trainers for professional sports yet is that they don’t know they can, because it’s not the common thing to do. I think it’s just a matter of girls having the confidence to know that they can do it.”
Osborne said she has that confidence now, and it will be a big help to her professionally.
“I know I’d be able to do it since I’ve had this much experience with it already, and that they keep asking me to come back,” she said.