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For Last 11 Years, Trainer John Adam Has Been Treating Bumps, Bruises for Milwaukee Brewers : The Man Who Made Milwaukee Painless

June 20, 1991|BARRY ZEPEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

John Adam was a lanky right-handed pitcher from Gardena High when he was drafted in 1972 in the sixth round of the amateur draft by the Baltimore Orioles.

Unlike most athletes who have an opportunity to play baseball professionally, Adam eventually made it to the big leagues, but not the way he planned.

His professional playing career, all at the Class-A level, lasted only two seasons. He was cut by the Orioles after the 1972 season and was picked up by the Angels in '73. But after suffering an arm injury, he was released at the end of the season.

Eight years later, he was in the big leagues as trainer for the Milwaukee Brewers, a job he has held for 11 seasons.

While his own pitching arm wasn't durable enough to tolerate the rigors of a professional career, his knowledge has helped maintain the arms--as well as the legs and minds--of the Brewers as they compete in the American League Eastern Division.

Recently he has been working with left-hander Teddy Higuera, who has been recovering from a tear of the rotator cuff in his left shoulder that was discovered during spring training. Adam's work is paying dividends, as Higuera has returned to the rotation and is 2-2. Higuera pitched six innings of shutout ball, struck out 10 and earned the decision June 12 in a 8-0 victory over the Angels and fellow countryman Fernando Valenzuela.

On Tuesday, Higuera again earned the decision in a 10-6 victory over the Angels.

"He helps me when I need him," Higuera said. "He is my big friend on the team. He helps me with everything."

Adam's many hours of consultation with team doctors helped plan a course of treatment for Higuera. In recent years, the Brewer pitcher has returned from an ankle injury, a knee injury and back surgery.

"With the latest injury, Teddy had just a small tear in his rotator cuff and the doctors who examined him felt surgery wasn't necessary," Adam said. "I was pretty confident that he could bounce back and do well because he is highly motivated, very competitive and has perfect mechanics. He also has great work habits."

Another player who is recovering from a herniated disc is right-handed reliever Edwin Nunez.

"It seems like we've gotten more than our share (of injuries) over the years, that's for sure," Adam said. "It seems that way when big names like (Jim) Gantner, (Paul) Molitor and Higuera have gotten hurt in recent years. But a lot of other teams have had costly injuries recently also."

Adam, 37, has to know as much as possible about each of the 25 players on the team. He believes that a trainer, much like a manager and coaches, must know a little psychology.

"You have to (know psychology) when you're dealing with 25 different egos," Adam said. "You have to take each guy for what he is and deal with him in that way."

Just as the sports medicine field has grown and developed over the years, so has Adam since his retirement. Although his interest in an athletic training career started because of his own injury--an elbow strain of his pitching arm--his first experience in the field came as a trainer for the Banning High football team in 1974.

He was influenced in part to enter the athletic training field by the doctor who treated his injury, sports surgeon Frank Jobe.

In 1975, Adam went to work at Gardena as its athletic trainer. He continued to learn the job and complete his college education at Cal State Dominguez Hills through 1978, where he earned a BA in physical education and a minor in psychology.

While attending Dominguez Hills, he also spent plenty of time working with former Toro trainer Dave Max.

"My timing was good (to get the opportunity to work with Max)," Adam said.

Adam was able to qualify for National Athletic Trainers Assn. certification and an eventual return to the low minor leagues. This time, though, he was a trainer, not a player.

He reported to the Brewers Class-A team in Burlington, Iowa, where "I thought I did a fair job." He advanced to another Brewers' Class-A team at Stockton of the California League the next year, and was promoted to their double-A team at Holyoke, Mass., for the 1980 season.

He said good timing "put me at the right place at the right time" when the Milwaukee trainer suddenly decided to resign before the 1981 season. Adam was named to the position.

Besides treating the serious and minor injuries that crop up on a baseball team during the season, Adam is conducting a season-long evaluation of each player's physical capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. That season-long evaluation is used to design an off-season training program for each player.

"In September I give each player their individual workout program," Adam said. "We'll give the players all of October off, but after that I'll start calling them by phone and ask if they've started their program . . . and if they're having any problems. We set them up all over the country--wherever they live--with places to work out."

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