February 13, 2008
KALIDA — Neil Rampe was an in-the-dirt type of player.He played behind the plate with several broken fingers for the 1995 Kalida baseball team that reached the state semifinals.Rampe, a 1996 Kalida High School grad, is still grinding it out these days.Only, his catching days are long behind him.Rampe was recently named a major league manual therapist for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’ll be part of a four-person training staff that travels with the D-Backs for 162 games.Rampe makes the jump to the pros from the University of Arizona, where he served as the school’s associate director of performance training since 2003.“Pitchers and catchers report (this) Friday,” Rampe said from his parents’ home in Kalida. “Then, I’ll be with the team for 162 games and every day until I hope Halloween. I have no problem grinding, knowing that in the offseason you can get lost for three or four months. I didn’t have any time off at Arizona. It went 12 months of the year.”Rampe had always considered working around baseball. His path just didn’t lead him in that direction.After graduating from Kalida, he went to the University of Findlay, where he played soccer.“After knee surgery and three foot surgeries over my high school career, I decided it wasn’t in my best interest to sit behind the plate,” Rampe said.Instead, he began thinking of working in the training room.“I started thinking of athletic medicine after my first knee surgery,” he said. “I was (rehabbing) at Northwest Physical Therapy in the summer after going to the state tournament and I thought of making a living at it (training).”His athletic training career started at Findlay as a student, where he was a student trainer for hockey and wrestling, when he wasn’t playing soccer.After graduating from Findlay in 2000, he began his grad school work at San Diego State. From there, he interned at Southern California, where he was athletic trainer for USC football under coach Paul Hackett.“That was something,” Rampe said. “We’d have team dinners on George Lucas’ private beach. We’d also have former players like Ronnie Lott come around a lot.”Rampe finished his Masters Degree at the University of Minnesota, where he was the strength and conditioning coach for all men’s sports but football and basketball.“That was in 2001-2002 and that was a fun year,” Rampe said. “The hockey team, the wrestling team and the golf team won the national championship. Baseball and swimming won the Big 10.”After a year working for a sports medicine clinic in Boulder, Col., he was hired at Arizona in July of 2003. His job was similar to a trainer at Lima’s FAST.“My job was to make athletes bigger, stronger and faster and we worked in a 24,000-foot training facility,” Rampe said.Last year the Diamondbacks head trainer Nate Shaw asked Rampe if he was interested in being a minor league trainer. Rampe thought about it, but turned Shaw down.Last December Shaw invited Rampe to Chase Field to talk training.“I thought I was there to talk shop, but it slowly evolving into an evaluation,” Rampe said. “They ended up creating a position for me. I’ll be the middle man for the athletic trainer and the strength and conditioning coach. I’ll bridge the gap between the rehab and performance enhancement.”The last few weeks Rampe has been plotting out his schedule. On Opening Day, he’ll be in Cincinnati.“I turn 30 on June 24 and that day I’ll be sitting in the dugout at Fenway,” he said. “I said, ‘Why not?’ Where else can you get paid to spit sunflower seeds?”Just like he did when he was catching hard-throwing Chad Ehrnsberger with his broken fingers at Kalida.“That’s what Kalida is all about,” Rampe said.