The world of ‘Dr. Pain’
July 30, 2012 3:23PM
White Sox head athletic trainer and Naperville resident Herm Schneider jokes with Sox players early in the game as the Sox play the Minnisota Twins on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Schneider started with the Sox in 1979 after a nine year tenure with the Yankees. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Covering all bases
Herm Schneider opened up about a number of topics during an interview with The Sun this week:
Q: You’ve worked for so many managers over the years, do you have a favorite or two?
A: “I know I’m being diplomatic, but I have honestly liked them all. They all bring something different to the table. Right now my favorite is Robin. He’s a wonderful guy and I’ve been with him since they got him in the minor leagues.”
Q: Over the years, you’ve rubbed down, taped up and stretched out thousands of players. Does it ever get boring?
A: “It’s not boring to me. Every time I do a massage or a treatment, I am helping the players with their careers. That’s rewarding for me. It’s not much different than the Naperville Fire Department that goes out and rescues people day in and day out. If they didn’t have a passion for that, besides it being a job they need to feed their families, they probably would not enjoy it either.”
Q: What were some of the worst injuries you saw or have dealt with in your career?
A: “There have been some bad ones. Robin’s injury with his ankle was very serious, but we got him back. There have been a couple pitchers hit in the head on comebackers. There’s not much I can do for them but get them stabilized and off to the hospital. Harold Baines’ knees were bad, and guys like Frank Thomas, the guys who play the most have the most injuries, that only makes sense. Jake Peavy’s torn lat muscle was something we had not dealt with and was unchartered waters. So was Bo Jackson’s hip replacement and Jerry Reinsdorf asking me to get Michael Jordan ready to play baseball. I have had interesting things to do and people to deal with.”
Q: Who are some players you’ve gotten particularly close to?
A: “I have a special place in my life for Harold Baines. He and I spend a lot of time on the road, going out to breakfast and talking about world events. You have to forget about baseball at times or you get burned out on it. I’m very close to Robin now and also a guy like Matt Thornton. He’s an early arriver that doesn’t require much, but he always pops his head in and checks on me and wants to know how I’m doing. “
Q: You’ve lived in Naperville 32 years. What have you enjoyed about it?
A: “It’s the school districts, Park District, community services, police and fire, the downtown area, just everything about Naperville makes it a wonderful place to live. I travel around the country and visit a lot of cities, and Naperville is still head and shoulders above most of the places I go to.”
Updated: November 30, 2012 10:45AM
Watching a major league baseball game generally takes about three hours. But for White Sox trainer and Naperville resident Herm Schneider, every game is at least a 12-hour day.
Like the guy who maintains your car, Schneider is a human mechanic — a man who has kept individual players running now for 34 years as the trainer for the Chicago White Sox.
Born in the Netherlands, Schneider, 60, said he moved to the U.S. when he was 5 years old and discovered he wanted to become a trainer “after growing up around a ballpark.”
“When I was a ‘youngin’ I grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and a baseball park known as Silver Stadium was at 500 Norton St., and I lived across from it, so I sort of grew up at the ballpark,” Schneider said. “The trainer there saw I showed interest in what he was doing and would say, ‘Hey Herm, why don’t you do this for me?’ and I realize now he was sort of fanning my interest.”
Schneider earned a degree at the State University of New York and began his health care career in the minors with the Baltimore Orioles’ organization. Various stints with the New York Yankees’ minor and major league teams followed until he moved to the White Sox in 1979, where he remains to this day.
When the White Sox play an average night game at home at U.S. Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago, Schneider’s day begins promptly at 6 a.m. regardless of when he got home the night before.
“I get up at 6 o’clock and get myself warmed up and head off to the health club at Edward so I’ll be there by 7 a.m.,” he said. “I try to workout 1½ to two hours and get my chores done so that I’m ready to leave for the ballpark by 11 o’clock.”
By noon, Schneider has parked his car at the park and entered his own sanctuary where he will spend the next hour turning on equipment, filling whirlpool baths, rolling up bandages and unpacking if the team has just returned from a road trip.
“We take (a lot of equipment) on the road, so I unpack everything and then go to my desk where I fill out workman’s comp reports, paperwork, and my injury reports in order to make sure all of the documentation process gets into the system,” he said. “I open mail and go through the bills – this is when my administrative hat goes on.”
By 1:30, the bench players begin arriving for physical treatment, followed by the starters. Schneider said that the starters are allowed to arrive later in order to give them more time to rest.
“I try to shift service time to the regulars until about 4:15 in the afternoon and then batting practice starts,” he said. “Once the players go out, I clean up the mess we’ve made from treatments and there’s a little bit of quiet time for me. I try to eat somewhere 4:30 to 5, which I never did before.”
Even on camera, Schneider appears visibly lighter and more fit than he has in years, thanks to his exercise regimen and new eating habits that include plates of vegetables at Italian restaurants, instead of the dish he would order for his last meal — chicken parmesan.
“I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost or what I even weigh,” Schneider said with a shrug. “I figure it only makes you anxious or you’ll wonder what you should do next.”
The man known as “Dr. Pain” — a moniker Schneider said was given to him by Sox announcer “Hawk” Harrelson — said some days, almost every player will come to see him for some sort of physical therapy.
Some of course need more treatment than others. But almost every player has a tough time dealing with injuries, especially if they are severe.
“There are a lot of times when I have to talk a guy off the ledge,” he said. “The fear of the unknown is always an issue. The majority of the time, I’ve seen over my course of years whatever the player is dealing with, and it’s my job to convince them it’s going to be OK.”
Current Sox manager Robin Ventura went through exhaustive therapy during his career with the Sox following a severe ankle injury in 1997 and describes Schneider as being “the same now, in most respects, as he was then.”
“When you’re on the (disabled list) like I was and you know you aren’t playing, you’re here early in the morning for treatment, and no one ever beats Herm to the ballpark,” Ventura said Wednesday as the Sox concluded a three-game homestand before heading off to Texas. “He’s the first to arrive and the last to leave, and I trusted him throughout my whole rehab experience. Even when we get new players from another team, people know Herm’s reputation is right up there as one of the best.”
Sox outfielder Alex Rios said Schneider “takes a lot of pride in healing us as fast as he can” and that Schneider’s vast experience level “creates confidence.”
“He’s been around a lot of great players and has seen a lot of injuries, so you’ve got to have that confidence in him,” Rios said. “No matter what you do, experience is the most important thing in life.”
Lefty reliever Matt Thornton, who Schneider said “is a wonderful guy I’m very close to,” said the Sox trainer has taught players not to ignore injuries.
“We’ve learned from Herm not to ignore the minor things and that when something happens, we need to cut it off before it gets worse,” Thornton said. “Herm is an integral part of the team who is really great about getting us back on the field. He has seen it all and not too much surprises him. He’s got a big folder of experience.”
During the action, Schneider said he needs to stay in the game the whole time.
“I am sitting at the edge of my seat making sure nothing happens,” he said.
If it does, he wants to make sure he has seen what led up to the injury.
“The mechanism of injury is always important, what preceded it if a player gets hurt and how it happened,” Schneider said. “I need to know at what level the player was going. Was it at half speed? Full speed? All of that has to do with the mechanism of injury, the degree of the injury. If he was just coasting and hurts a leg, it might be more of a strain.”
Once the game is over, Schneider spends his final hours at the ballpark giving post-game treatment to players, including icing down bruises and running baths “to get the general soreness out from backs that are sore from getting in the athletic position 200 to 300 times a night.”
After all that work, Schneider takes the long drive back home to Naperville.
“My favorite moment of the day is going to bed. I’m tired,” Schneider said.