Do you remember that episode of Boy Meets World where the class is asked to picture themselves returning for their 20th high school reunion? Cory Matthews, of course, decides that he is going to come back as a professional baseball player because, as a sixth-grade boy, what better option is there?
He’s so excited as he creates his own baseball cards and pastes a picture of himself in his little league gear onto a cereal box.
I think about this episode a lot. Although Cory grew through the seasons to have different aspirations and career goals, I always wondered about other little boys and girls who didn’t want to leave their sports dreams behind. Are there realistic ways to make baseball your job (or whichever sport you can’t live without)?
Taylor Nakamura found a way to turn baseball into a career without playing professionally.
Baseball is in his blood. His father is a baseball enthusiast and raised his children to be die-hard fans of the sport as well. Taylor grew up playing baseball and even played for a couple of years in college. He knew that he wasn’t going to play in the MLB, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to stay close to the sport for the remainder of his life.
So how did he keep it in his life?
He used his interests to shape his studies.
Taylor got his Bachelor of Applied Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Central Washington University in 2009. He then went on to get a Master’s degree in the Science of Human Movement from A.T. Still University in 2012.
This education, along with his intimate knowledge of the sport, was the perfect combination to lead him to a career as a Performance Specialist Coach.
He would be able to work with professional baseball players and help them reach their goals.
“Obviously there’s a lot of different work that goes into their baseball careers, but performance training has really begun to make huge impacts on players’ careers.”
This year, he is the Performance Specialist Coach for the Clinton LumberKings, a Class-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Since he was born and raised in Washington, Taylor considers the Mariners to be like family.
What is Performance Specialist Training?
This type of training is all about improving athletes’ fitness with the goal of bettering their performance for a specific sport. It is a combination of different exercises at different intensities which can change depending on the time of year. It can also sometimes encompass nutrition advising and psychological exercises as well.
Each player has his own individualized program and it changes throughout the season. This means there are different types of “typical days” for Taylor.
One of the most common misconceptions that people have about Performance Specialist Coaches is that they sleep in and don’t do anything until a couple of hours before game time.
This is definitely not the case.
In the Spring:
During spring training, Taylor and his team work for 30 straight days. Their days begin at 6am and end at around 5pm.
Pitchers are conditioned (run) in the early morning and positional players start their workouts around that same time. These morning workouts are followed by stretching sessions with about 160 to 180 players. The rest of the day is filled with a rotation of players coming in for workouts and stretches.
The last few hours are spent going over the day and discussing how they can make it even better.
During Minor League Season:
During the minor league season, the team will play at least 142 games starting on April 3 and going until September 1. If they make the playoffs, the team will, of course, continue to play games.
Taylor’s day will usually consist of morning workouts from around 10am to 1pm. Then he will run and stretch his pitchers and have a separate stretch session for the positional players.
During his downtime, he will relax and eat some food while going over the next few days to make sure the workouts and conditioning are lined up.
When the team goes on the road for games, Taylor makes sure to call ahead to the gyms to let them know that they’ll be coming into town and to see if their facilities are available.
Taylor’s favorite part of his job is being able to spend the season with the team, helping them try to win a championship. Competitive by nature, Taylor thrives off of this desire to help players become a winning team.
Though he loves to spend the season with the team, it’s also the most challenging part of the job for him. Being with the team during baseball season means that he is away from his daughter and the rest of his family for that same amount of time. This can be incredibly difficult since they are all such a large part of his life.
How Did Taylor Get This Position?
After Taylor completed his undergraduate degree, he spoke with a family friend about what his next step should be to get involved with a professional baseball organization. His friend’s advice was that he should pursue a Master’s degree to separate himself from other candidates who would be applying for similar jobs.
He also recommended that Taylor read a book titled Never Eat Alone, which is all about networking, getting to know people, and making a name for yourself.
Taylor took the advice and while getting his Master’s degree was actually able to meet one of the performance coaches for the Mariners.
After meeting the coach, getting to know him, and expressing his interest in the field, Taylor sent him his résumé and contact information.
The coach reached out to Taylor and let him know that he had gotten his information and though there was no job available at that time, if a position did open up, he would be a candidate.
Taylor accepted this answer and made sure to keep up a good relationship with coach. A month later there was an opening and Taylor was called for an interview.
“Never burn bridges with people who can affect your occupation and/or career.”
Not only that, but Taylor also recommends that students wanting to pursue a career in his field follow the advice he was given and further their education to set themselves apart. Not only does it add to your résumé, but it also provides more opportunities to network and it keeps everything you learn current and fresh in your mind.
Just because you’re not a professional athlete, doesn’t mean you can’t find work within that sport. Taylor knows for a fact there are other ways to make baseball your job and he made sure that’s what he did.
Homework time! Taylor approached a career in baseball from a perspective other than “player.” He pain-spotted the industry and discovered a crucial component to the sport: training. Start researching different types of trainers and the programs available within schools. Explore your options on AfterCollege.
P.S. You can follow the Clinton LumberKings on Twitter @LumberKings