McNamee deemed an imposter by strength coaches
A major league strength coach sat in front of his television and watched in dismay as news broke Dec. 13 that it was Roger Clemens' personal trainer who had gone from former strength coach to informant, supplying the federal agents and ultimately Sen. George Mitchell with compelling testimony about his role in supplying performance-enhancing drugs to big leaguers.Not for one second did the strength coach and others like him feel shamed that the testimony came from one of their brethren. That's because it didn't. Brian McNamee was an outsider, a personal trainer hired by clubs as a staff member because of his ties to the front office and, later, Clemens. In the aftermath of the Mitchell report's release, strength coaches want their voices heard: By and large, they are not the problem, and McNamee was not one of them. But just what is the role of strength coaches? Long thought of as "dumbbell" coaches, they are in charge of improving and maintaining players' strength, conditioning and health. But they also feel as though they've gotten a bad rap. "Over the last 15 years, the definition of strength coach has been vaguely defined and been given to people who really don't fall into the criteria of it," said Brad Andress, the head strength and conditioning coach for the Colorado Rockies. Andress serves as president of the Professional Baseball Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society, which was created in the early to mid-1990s by former Indians and Rangers strength coach Fernando Montes. He said that athletic trainers -- accredited, full-time staff members responsible for diagnosing injuries and implementing treatment programs for players -- and personal trainers are often confused with major league strength coaches, who spend the majority of their time designing individual workout programs for players. On game days, these coaches are usually in the weight room and on the field stretching and working the players out so their bodies are prepared to play. The strength coaches work within a team setting, not one-on-one like personal trainers. "I found [the strength coaches] to be a highly professional group," said Frank Coonelly, former head counsel for Major League Baseball, "with only the best interests at heart." Many personal trainers -- ones who are hired privately by the athletes -- have nothing but good intentions. They are professional and trained properly. However, some are not, and strength coaches take issue with those sullying influences. "[Players] know who to go to for good answers, and they know who to go to for bad answers," Andress said. "I think that's what the Mitchell report showed." It also showed McNamee as someone who allegedly supplied Clemens and teammate Andy Pettitte with either human growth hormone, steroids or both. It showed that Dodgers Triple-A strength coach Todd Seyler injected himself in the thigh with steroids in the same room in which five of his players also took their turn with a syringe, including Paul Lo Duca and Matt Herges. McNamee and Seyler were two of many who have infiltrated the clubhouses, lives and homes of players over the years. They were not people, major league strength coaches say, whose primary goal was the athletes' health. McNamee especially, to them, was just another imposter. "It was a huge, huge problem," said one major league strength coach about personal trainers. "It was a joke. Who's enforcing the rules? No one was checking who was doing what."
Strength coaches are a modern phenomenon in baseball. It had always been football, not baseball, players who focused on the weight room. But attitudes started to shift, and by the late 1980s, a movement had started to mushroom, with Jose Canseco leading the charge in Oakland. "Back in 1990, I didn't ever think I'd see the day when baseball players would train too much," Andress said.
The strength coaches are trying to do right by the players, and there is a real effort to educate and help the players.
-- MLBPA general counsel Michael Weiner
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