Being referred to as a “closer” in the baseball world is always a good thing.
On the diamond, that pitcher is tasked with closing out opponent rallies … to save wins. While Michael Salazar isn’t playing for the Cleveland Indians, what he and his fellow athletic trainers do for the American League Central club is just as vital to their success.
A 1998 graduate of Manchester University, Salazar is in his 13th year working in professional baseball. His path to the big leagues mirrored that of a player.
“While I didn’t work as the head guy with baseball at MU during my student training work, I had always thought that would be something I’d like to do,” he said. “I received an opportunity via the Fort Wayne Wizards (currently the Tin Caps) to do some work during the summers as an intern, and I absolutely loved it.
“During that time, the Wizards had a few players who didn’t speak much English, and I was bilingual (with Spanish as a second language), so I was able to assist on field and so forth when an interpreter was needed,” he added. “The full-time guys I worked with were very impressed by this and the work I was doing, so when I was writing letters about openings, I had the pick of several full-time jobs.”
Salazar jumped at a chance in Atlanta for his first full-time slot. He served the National League East team first as an intern. From there, he was a rookie ball athletic trainer for them between the first and second year of his graduate school work.
“I had heard so many great things about their organization,” he said. “It was awesome working with them, but, I decided I’d like to be closer to home somehow (being from the Midwest). It all came together as my current position with the Indians opened up which was a perfect fit.”
Just as it is with his colleagues, Salazar’s daily schedule is a busy one.
“I’m usually at work from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.,” he said. “I handle the Indians’ minor league referrals and training situations, so I’m on the phone with the various farm teams as my second role is as the minor league athletic training coordinator. A typical day with the big league team has me doing office work from 12-2 p.m., player care from 2-4 p.m., on field from 4:15-5:30 p.m. and then back in to prep players for the game. I’m either inside attending to certain players or in my office until the later innings as the “closer”. The early innings are split between a few other ATs, but the schedule can vary from day to day.
“I don’t travel full time until after the All-Star Break,” he added. “This is due to my work with the injured major league players which has me staying back or traveling with them on a rehab assignment to a minor league team.”
The MU alum has enjoyed every bit of his experiences in Atlanta and Cleveland. However, overall, his top moment as an athletic trainer came when he was asked to work at the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.
“It was an incredible opportunity,” Salazar said. “Being around the best players in the world and being a part of something so important in baseball was awesome.
“Those types of opportunities wouldn’t have happened (without the skills that Manchester University helped me acquire),” he added. “There are so many people that helped me along the way, such as Dr. (Mark) Huntington. The athletic training program there helped me learn so much to get me ready for the professional world.”