Thursday, April 27, 2006
Female massage therapist has earned her spot in Padres' dugout
SAN DIEGO - Here are a few things New York Mets broadcaster Keith Hernandez apparently didn't know when he dissed Padres massage therapist Kelly Calabrese for being in the dugout during a game:
- She does everything from working on ace Jake Peavy's right arm to easing the many aches and pains that have hounded players such as Dave Roberts and Eric Young.
- She's been working with major leaguers for 11 years and has earned the respect of everyone in San Diego's clubhouse. And the dugout.
- During offseasons she's done work as a doula, assisting women before, during and after childbirth.
Hernandez said last Saturday night that women "don't belong in the dugout" when he spotted the 33-year-old Calabrese high-fiving Mike Piazza after he hit a home run in a loss to the Mets.
After Hernandez found out that Calabrese was with the Padres' training staff, he repeated that she shouldn't have been there. "I won't say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout," he said.
Although Calabrese does enjoy cooking - "I'm Italian, for God's sake," she said - the Padres disagree with Hernandez's view of women in the dugout.
"We think nothing of having her in the dugout," said Roberts, the Padres' left fielder and leadoff batter who's benefited from Calabrese's work in the training room.
"I definitely think that if she had him on the table for 10 minutes, he'd retract all of his statements," Roberts said.
"No doubt," Calabrese said. "All I need is my hands."
Hernandez, a former MVP first baseman, did apologize on the air on Sunday and in a phone call to Calabrese on Monday. He also was reprimanded by SportsNet New York.
Calabrese has taken the high road since Hernandez illustrated that certain elements of baseball seem to remain in the stone age.
"There's no sense in bringing more negativity to this," Calabrese said. "To be honest, I think it actually is becoming a wonderful thing for women. There are plenty of women that watch baseball, that are in the stands every day, that watch baseball at home, and there are plenty of young girls that love baseball.
"If I can be a positive role model that's on the field, that's in the dugout, for them to relate to, you know what? I'll be happy to take on that role, even if that helps one other person achieve their goal, so that they're not afraid to take the road less taken."
In baseball's case, it's a road that travels through a macho landscape.
In her third season with the Padres, Calabrese is believed to be the first woman to be employed full-time in a big league club's training room.
She's a licensed massage therapist and a certified personal trainer. She first started working with big leaguers in Cleveland in 1995, and later with players from other clubs, including the Atlanta Braves. When slugger Ryan Klesko was traded from Atlanta to San Diego before the 2000 season, he brought her along as his personal trainer.
The Padres used her on a part-time basis for a few years before head trainer Todd Hutcheson hired her full-time after the 2003 season.
"It was difficult to achieve, yeah, but blood, sweat, tears and perseverance pays off," Calabrese said.
Young and Roberts said Calabrese helps keep players off the disabled list and helps injured players return quicker.
After dislocating his right shoulder crashing into the center field wall in the Padres' 2005 home opener, Young chose rehab over surgery. He returned three months later.
"She was part of the equation that got me back so quick," Young said. "My muscles were all tight, so I had to get all of them loose and everything. Without her I wouldn't have been back.
"She gets in there deep, she gets the knots out," Young said. "It's not going to be a foo-foo massage, which means you'll never fall asleep on her table. I haven't seen one guy do it."
There's nothing like preventative maintenance.
"The funny thing is that new guys who come into the organization who question whether she's adequate enough as far as strength, she rectifies that in a hurry," Roberts said. "There's many guys that aren't repeat customers because of that."
Now that Calabrese is in the spotlight, the Padres probably will change her title.
"Sports therapist really is the best title for me here," said Calabrese, who played volleyball in college.
Asked about Hernandez's remarks, commissioner Bud Selig said: "I come from a family with three daughters, five granddaughters and a very opinionated wife. I'll leave it to you to figure out my comment on that. We're living in a different world, one with fairness and opportunity."
Recently married, Calabrese lives in Cleveland in the offseason. She said she's certified to work in Ohio as a doula, and has been present for the birth of nine babies, including her best friend's daughter.
"That's just something I have a passion for," she said. "I love kids. I'm very blessed with the fact that I love anatomy, I love physiology, and I'm always willing to learn. I might as well learn all those things before I have my own kids."
Calabrese still has a few walls to knock down, though.
One is getting women's-sized clothing from the company that supplies the Padres. "It's always men's medium, and I'm swimming in these things," she said.
"The other thing is trying to get a ladies hat that I can wear on the bench. Hutch and I came up with a design for a fitted cap for a woman that I can put my ponytail through. We're just trying to find somebody to make me one."