By: Joe Southern
He’s one of the first people players see whenever they arrive at Constellation Field and often he is one of the last.
For the past four seasons, he has been a fixture in the Sugar Land Skeeters dugout, yet almost no one in the stands knows who he is. His name and picture do not appear in the game programs nor are they on the Skeeters website.
“I just fly under the radar,” said Shane Borchert, the Skeeters assistant trainer. “It’s like when I worked with the A’s, we had a sports psychologist, and he’s very famous, but people would ask who he was and he’d say, ‘oh, I’m nobody,’ so I just kind of steal that line.”
That nobody is one of the most important people in the Skeeters clubhouse. He and Head Trainer Max Mahaffey shoulder much of the medical burden of the team. Both men are outreach athletic trainers for Memorial Hermann. Mahaffey has been with the team since the 2012 inaugural season. Borchert came on in the 2016 season.
“Having Shane on board is great,” Mahaffey said. “You know he’s a veteran athletic trainer and brings a lot of knowledge, and the guys really respect what he does around the clubhouse. He’s definitely taught me several things over the last several years. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Borchert began his career as a baseball trainer 30 years ago. His first season in the minors was marked by one of the most historic World Series ever played.
“It’s hard to believe this is the 30th year coming up of the Bay Bridge Series. That means my first year was doing that 30 years ago,” he said. “I was always minor leagues, but we were at the World Series when the earthquake happened, me and my grandfather were there. We were in the stadium.
“We didn’t know what was going on. … We were in the second deck behind the TV and all those guys. So, their stuff all blipped, you saw a blip and that was it. We knew the stadium was shaking but we didn’t know the extent of the damage that happened outside.
“So, the left-field bleachers, they sit there and five, 10 minutes later they get rowdy and start chanting ‘let’s play ball’ but they didn’t have any idea what was happening outside. And not soon after that, word of mouth, nobody in the stadium panicked, but then the police cars started coming in on the infield and the players and their families start gathering on the field,” he said.
Prior to that, Borchert was just a kid from a small Montana town.
“When I was in junior high and high school, I was the clubhouse guy for our local minor league team, the Giants,” he said. “I would help out the trainer and I just got interested at that point. I would help him out with some simple tasks and go on from there.”
Borchert attended Western Montana College and got a degree in sports medicine. He was hired by the San Francisco Giants organization and then spent six years in the Oakland A’s farm system. He left baseball for a while but returned to it when his wife’s job brought them to the Houston area.
“When I got the job with Memorial Hermann, they knew my background and they asked me to come down and help Max out,” he said. “I had no idea about independent baseball. This was the first time I had ever seen it. I kind of joked, we all do, because you used to hear horror stories about how bad independent baseball was back in the day, right. But this is like a whole different thing. I had no idea.”
In addition to working home games with the Skeeters, Borchert also works for the Katy ISD as a trainer at Tompkins High School, where his two sons attend. Ray, 17, is a senior and plays basketball. Jeff is 15 and is on the golf team.
On a typical day, Borchert and Mahaffey arrive at the stadium five hours before game time.
“We’ll have a couple hours of treatment. We’ll do a variety of treatments, anywhere from stretching to ultrasound to dry needling to Graston Techniques and taping, bandaging, making some protective gears, any other conditions that might come up,” Borchert said. “We’ll be working with them in different situations, whatever that may be.”
After warm-ups and batting practice, the starters return for whatever they may need – more taping, bandaging, or treatments.
“Then we’ll do game coverage and then after the game, we’ll come back and if there’s any new injuries we’ll look at them, evaluate them and pretty much do treatments, clean up and go home,” he said.