Community Health Education major Ben Potenziano builds strength for the S.F. Giants
As none of the players missed a playoff start due to injury in the team's historic World Championship-winning season, the San Francisco Giants owe much to UMF graduate Ben Potenziano and his staff. While baseball player performance may be measured in on-base plus slugging or walks and hits per inning pitched, Potenziano says "DL days" are his yardstick for success.
"How many guys are on the disabled list, how long have they been there and how much money is being lost to DL. That's the measurement," says Potenziano, the team's strength and conditioning coach, who majored in community health education at UMF. "I don't think we had one starting pitcher on the DL [that] year. That shows that what we're doing works."
His work with the championship team began during spring training, when he tested players for their range of motion, flexibility, speed and power output, and then implemented team and individual training regimes to "correct any problems and prevent injuries," he says.
Before an in-season evening game, he says players typically arrive at the ballpark around 2 p.m. for pre-game treatments and workouts, including team stretches and sprints that he conducts. And Potenziano makes himself available for ritualized, individual exercises, too.
"A player might say, 'OK, Ben, I want to do some med-ball rotations,'" he explains. "So we'll do some exercises that simulate what he's going to do on the field, tossing side-to-side so he can get his core activated and get the muscles firing."
He even gets hands-on to help three-time All Star pitcher Tim Lincecum keep his 93-mph fastball in fine form.
"I'll massage his lower back, elbow, arm and hand. That's what I do with him every fifth day," says Potenziano. "Whether you call it superstition or not, players stick with what they know and like, and what they trust."
Now making his home in Chandler, Ariz., about a 30-minute drive from the team's training complex in Scottsdale, Potenziano says that during the 162-game regular season he sees his wife and two kids in San Francisco during the kids' month-long summer vacation, and when they can occasionally meet up with him for away games in Denver and San Diego. But other than when the Giants play the Arizona Diamondbacks away, he isn't home much.
"The truth is, I don't want to do this forever. Eventually, I'd like to teach at the college level. Working at UMF would be terrific."
For now, he'll continue to relish memories of the championship season.
"It's hard to believe that we were champions and to realize I was part of it," he says. "Some people ask, 'Are you going to get a [championship] ring?' and I say, 'Yeah, I actually am.' It was just awesome."