Nikki Huffman was hired as the head trainer for the Blue Jays, and becomes the second female to hold the position in MLB history.
While the Blue Jays haven’t made a lot of changes with their roster, there has been plenty of organizational movement, including in the trainer’s department. The Blue Jays watched George Poulis leave for a new gig in Atlanta, and in his place they’ve promoted Nikki Huffman to the head athletic trainer position.
While news like this is always noteworthy, it’s especially significant because of what the promotion means for Huffman, and for equity in Major League baseball. She becomes just the second female head athletic trainer in MLB history, joining Sue Falsone, who was in the position with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2011-2013 before resigning. In fact, the two of them represent the only women in any of the four major sports in North America to ever hold the head position.
Huffman is no stranger to the Blue Jays’ organization, and she’s already received a public stamp of approval from a familiar client. She worked with Marcus Stroman back when he was a student at Duke University, and she was also credited with being instrumental in his recovery from a torn ACL in 2015. Being the only head athletic trainer currently in the big leagues, it’s definitely awesome to see her welcomed with open arms by one of the leaders and more outspoken players on the roster.
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While Poulis was a valued member of the Blue Jays’ staff, a fresh face in the role may do some good for the organization, as her predecessor held the job for a decade and a half. Huffman isn’t a stranger either, as she’s worked with the Blue Jays for the last two years, as the head physical therapist last year, and as a physical therapist and rehab co-ordinator the year before.
She’ll head up a staff including Jose Mininstral, Voon Chong, Donovan Santas, Scott Weberg and Scott Peters, . Santas will take over as the head of strength and conditioning, Ministral as the assistant athletic trainer, and Weberg will keep his job as the assistant strength and conditioning co-ordinator. The Blue Jays notably let go of Mike Frostad and Chris Joyner from the department earlier this year, so there is more turnover than giving the reins to Huffman.
Dr. Huffman has earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, a Bachelor’s degree in athletic training, and as noted by Sportsnet, also earned a “post-professional sports residency and Division I sports fellowship”, while working at Duke, so she’s got some qualifications, and then some. That residency/fellowship at Duke was where she helped Stroman rehab from a torn ACL, and surprise the Blue Jays with a strong September return in the middle of their 2015 playoff stretch run. That successful rehab no doubt put her on the organization’s radar, and a couple years later she’s in the driver’s seat.
After an offseason that featured the black eye that was the Gregg Zaun situation, hiring Huffman is a great step, and look for the Blue Jays in the equity department. Women have long been vastly outnumbered in the head trainer positions, and it’s great to see a clearly deserving candidate given the opportunity.
And before anyone accuses me of implying that’s why she got the job, just stop it. When you’ve got an endorsement from the staff ace and a track record to back it up, that’s plenty enough for me.