Carroll’s Major League (Baseball) Impact in Athletic Training

Author: Tim Muma

Published Date: 1/11/2024

Categories: Athletic Training F1RST Magazine Health Sciences University News

Bryce Hietpas ’20
You might not be able to call Carroll University a farm club for Major League Baseball teams yet. Still, with seven students and graduates joining MLB organizations over the past few years, Carroll Pioneers are making their mark on the diamond. Most notably, four athletic trainers play critical roles in keeping players healthy and productive.

“Carroll professors did an amazing job preparing me for the countless things we’d encounter in the field because we did so much hands-on work,” said Bryce Hietpas ’20. “Working for a pro baseball team is a lot of work but very satisfying. And it’s cool to know so many other Carroll graduates are doing the same thing.”

Hietpas interned with the Houston Astros before landing a full-time position with the Detroit Tigers’ Dominican Summer League team. His internship was instrumental in learning about the daily grind of a baseball team and what is expected of their athletic trainers. It also gave Hietpas an advantage over his peers, a key component to Carroll’s success in placing graduates with MLB teams. Creating pipelines and relationships with pro baseball clubs is the best way to kickstart careers.

“I interned with the Wisconsin Woodchucks (now Wausau Woodchucks), a collegiate summer baseball team, but then Carroll provided me with the opportunity to intern with MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates as my capstone experience,” said David Archer ’19.

Archer currently works as a minor league athletic trainer for the Kansas City Royals. While the Pirates’ internship was huge for his development, he says Carroll’s athletic training staff and professors made it easy to succeed immediately.

“Every day at Carroll was a challenge for me but exactly what I needed to be in the position I am today. I was able to observe and learn from elite talent,” Archer added. “The most valuable tool was the combination of hands-on classroom learning and on-field coverage. It helped me become more comfortable with skills I needed to perform at a high level.”

Before Archer and Hietpas took their talents to the pros, Brooke Boggs ’18 found her way to the Milwaukee Brewers organization. For Boggs, now with the Miami Marlins, the challenge was more significant, as few females worked as athletic trainers with pro baseball teams five years ago. It speaks volumes about the Carroll program and Boggs’ abilities that she is now a veteran of the industry.

All three students were products of Carroll’s former undergraduate athletic training program. In 2020, Carroll elevated it to a Master of Science of Athletic Training (MSAT) program to meet licensing and professional standards changes by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). The strength of the undergraduate program and the success of its graduates helped make it a smooth transition.

“Our athletic training students were already learning advanced skills and an interdisciplinary approach to prepare them for any situation,” said Athletic Training Program Director Jamie Krzykowski, Ph.D., LAT, ATC. “They take courses with physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant students, work with medical doctors and help run our free rehabilitation clinic. All of it to understand the various ways professionals and patients function.”

The integrated philosophy of Carroll’s MSAT program focuses on an intensive real-world experience from the beginning, giving students more than 800 hours of hands-on work. They get clinical practice in the first semester at Carroll, whereas most programs offer students that option starting in their third or fourth semester. It makes a difference when graduates need to step up to the plate. Kiley Brown ’23 earned his master’s in athletic training earlier this year and now works for the Texas Rangers organization.

“From the start, I felt confident in my rehabilitation strategies due to Carroll’s clinicals, which do a fabulous job of making you comfortable in your abilities,” said Brown. “One of the most impactful clinicals for me was the free Orthopedic Sports Medicine Clinic we hosted. This allowed me to perform evaluations and create a rehab protocol. With Clinical Education Coordinator Dr. Lacey Runyon's supervision, I learned from my mistakes and developed my own style.”

Krzykowski stressed that “there's a very high demand for athletic trainers, and we ensure Carroll students have a leg up on their competition.” The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects athletic trainer positions to grow by 23 percent by 2030. Job postings often describe signing bonuses, extra pay for overtime, tuition reimbursement and other perks to draw people in. While most athletic trainers will latch on with high school and college sports teams, they are also needed in physician practices and tactical fields such as military, police and fire.

Of course, if you're at Carroll University, graduates are trending toward higher levels with MLB organizations. It’s no walk in the ballpark, but immense satisfaction comes from succeeding in a challenging environment and helping athletes live out their dreams.

“People are surprised by the time commitment. It’s six, sometimes seven days per week for 11-12 hours per day stretching, taping up players, massaging sore bodies and working through rehab. It can be a grind,” Hietpas said. “But I like the variety of the days and interacting with players and coaches. I’m very happy where I am.”

“I love the connections you make as an athletic trainer,” said Brown. “You have an opportunity to play a huge role in these athletes’ lives, both in the rehab setting and as human beings. Friends ask what the players are like. It’s funny because they are normal guys who watch the same shows and laugh at the same things everyone else does – they just happen to be elite athletes.”

The inaugural MSAT class graduated in May of 2022, and students have had 100 percent job placement, a testament to everyone involved. Krzykowski said she is proud of all the work Carroll graduates are putting in and how they have hit the ground running, but she also loves how current students are changing lives while they’re at Carroll.

“We help to run the Carroll University Rehabilitative Exercise (CURE) Clinic for cancer patients and survivors that was developed by our Clinical Exercise Physiology program,” said Krzykowski. “Serving others and seeing the appreciation from patients has a tremendous impact.”

That impact is felt by the Carroll athletic training students as well, first with the undergraduate program and now with the master's route.

“The faculty is fantastic, and the small classes really allow you to feel cared about as opposed to just being a number,” said Brown. “I would suggest Carroll's athletic training program to anyone who is looking to get in the field.”

“Carroll prepared me for professional sports that have a great deal of pressure and stress that has forced me to adapt and put everything I have into my job,” Archer added. “It gives me a sense of purpose that really makes me feel great waking up every day.”

And while none of them will be seen on highlight reels and baseball cards as they support MLB organizations behind the scenes, there are rewards if you love baseball.

“I walked into spring training each year and see guys like Framber Valdez (two-time MLB All-Star who threw a no-hitter on August 1 this year),” Hietpas said. “Oh my gosh! I’m having conversations with these guys. It’s things like that I never thought would happen to me, and I owe a lot of it to Carroll.”
Panoramic View of campus