In late 2018, athletic training alumnus Jacob Newburn (BATS ’04) made a career home run when he was named the Texas Rangers’ major league assistant athletic trainer. “I love working with professional baseball because every day is a new and different challenge,” Newburn says. “Whether at home in Arlington, during spring training or on the road, my aims are to maximize players’ recovery, limit inflammation and maintain our athletes at their highest level of performance.”
A cross-country career
Newburn’s involvement with baseball began when he was a student in The University of Tulsa’s athletic training program. The summer after his junior year he had the opportunity to intern with the Frisco RoughRiders, the minor league double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. “I spent that time learning about injuries in baseball, clubhouse atmosphere and techniques for stretching and exercises.”
After graduating from TU in 2004, Newburn completed his master’s in science in kinesiology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Drawing on a connection he had made during his TU internship, in June 2006 Newburn landed a seasonal employee position with the Rangers’ minor league team in Spokane, Washington. By November of that year, Newburn had been brought on full time with the organization, working with teams across the country and at the off-season complex in the Dominican Republic.
A solid foundation
Newburn regards his four years in TU’s athletic training program as foundational for his professional success. “I received an immersive education in my chosen career,” Newburn says. “My time at TU gave me the confidence to try techniques, put my hands on athletes and not be afraid to attempt new things in order to learn and improve.”
His undergraduate years also instilled in him what Newburn calls a “mindset” – a quest constantly to explore unfamiliar areas of practice and to improve his own skills. “Fresh research and clinical techniques come out so often that it’s hard to stay current. But I try to stay on top of new concepts and modalities, and I don’t shy away from trying new things just because I’m not an ‘expert’ yet.”
Rounding the bases
A home-run career such as Newburn’s does not happen by chance. For those who are considering an athletic training career in professional sports, Newburn has the following advice: “Gaining experience is the best thing you can do in this profession. You can’t obtain that – or the confidence you need – by watching someone else do the job. You must make the effort to get your hands on players and learn in a direct-contact atmosphere. It’s also vital to ask questions, try new things, question norms and look for the ‘why’ of a treatment or exercise that’s been prescribed.”
As far as getting into professional baseball, Newburn says, “there are openings every year for entry-level positions in the Dominican Republic or at spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida. Start at the bottom, put the work in, spend the off-seasons working in physical therapy clinics that specialize in baseball or upper-extremity rehab. If possible, work with winter baseball leagues. Learn manual therapy techniques and definitely learn Spanish. Above all else, develop your passion for the wonderful game of baseball.”
If you are interested in rounding the bases like Newburn, check out TU’s athletic training program.