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It was one for the record books—the longest game in World Series history.
Over the course of 18 innings, the Boston Red Sox and L.A. Dodgers waged an epic war of endurance in Game 3 that lasted 7 hours and 20 minutes—longer than the entire 1939 World Series. The two teams went through 18 pitchers before the Dodgers won with a walk-off homer at 3:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Worn, exhausted, and defeated—at least for the moment—the team now depended on Red Sox trainer Adam Thomas to make sure it was ready to take the field again later that same day.
“The minute the game ended, we were planning for the next game,” said Thomas, BS’99, DPT’12. “We had just 17 hours to get the players ready, both physically and mentally. We had used virtually every player on the team, and we had to figure out the best way to help each one of them recover.”
Sleep and nutrition were key elements of recovery, as were overnight rehab devices like NormaTec, a set of compression cuffs used to control lactic acid, which is a primary cause of muscle soreness and cramping.
The next morning, the training team worked on every pitcher in case there was a repeat of the previous night, when Nathan Eovaldi, who was slated as the Game 4 starter, had to take the mound in the 12th inning and threw an incredible 97 pitches over six innings to finish the game.
Eovaldi wasn’t the only surprise appearance. Catcher Christian Vázquez had to play first base for the first time in his career because the team had run out of substitutes. And Eduardo Núnez had to come off the bench in the 10th inning despite a sprained ankle. During the crazy 13th inning, he was knocked in the air by the opposing catcher, hurtled into the stands after sprinting to catch a foul ball, and dazed after sliding head-first into first base.
“We had less than a minute to assess whether he could continue to play,” recalled Thomas. “But there wasn’t much of a choice, because the only other options at that point were pitchers.”
It’s a testament to Thomas and the rest of the trainers that after such an epic loss, the team was able to bounce back physically and mentally to prevailed in Game 4 and go on to win the World Series.
Thomas credited that success to his training at Northeastern, first as an undergraduate majoring in athletic training, and later graduate student earning his doctorate in physical therapy.
“Northeastern also preached the value of continuing education,” he said. “So I took many courses and seminars to become a better clinician and found mentors to guide me along the way. Northeastern taught me that nothing will be handed to me, but everything is within reach.”
Prior to the Red Sox, Thomas worked for a minor league baseball team in Texas, and then for a small college, before taking a teaching position at his alma mater. While on the full-time faculty, he worked weekends as a trainer for the U.S. lacrosse team and earned his doctorate in physical therapy at Bouvé.
But Major League Baseball had been his dream since childhood, so when the Red Sox called in 2015, he jumped at the opportunity. Over the next three years, he worked with many all-stars including David “Big Papi” Ortiz, Mookie Betts, and Chris Sale.
“For three years I had my hands on our closer every day,” said Thomas. “I could be blindfolded and put my hand on Craig Kimbrel’s shoulder and I would know immediately what was going on.”
Thomas continues to teach in the PT program, where he will launch a new introductory course this spring geared toward students in other disciplines. He believes that his years in professional sports have made him a better teacher.
“These experiences allow me to teach students about clinical decision-making, working with a multitude of injuries and rehab cases, and how to deal with other health care professionals, coaches, and administrators.”
Working for the Red Sox has provided Thomas with a good salary, extensive travel, and the priceless opportunity to become a champion.
But being a part of sports history comes with a price.
On game days, Thomas begins work around noon ends after 11 p.m. With 162 regular season games, 14 post-season games, and 30 more during spring training, that comes to 206 11-hour days, and only had 10 days off last year.
“People who are thinking about this kind of work need to understand that it’s a huge commitment,” he said. “I miss a lot of time with family and friends. It takes a toll, physically and mentally.”
In comparison, he said his fiancé, who is a physical therapist at a clinic, works four 10-hour days and has every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off.
Still, Thomas said his journey to the championship has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience—and not many lifetimes, at that.
“It was a great experience being part of the Boston Red Sox and winning the World Series,” he said. “You’re really part of it all—you’re part of the team, and part of the winning.
Click here to learn more about Adam Thomas’ new course, Introductory Skills for Healthcare and Rehabilitation (HLTH 2001) and enroll now.