Oklahoma native will serve as assistant athletic trainer of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2012 season

Former Oklahoma City 89ers and RedHawks trainer Greg Harrel reflects on his experiences as a pro baseball trainer as he readies for the upcoming season.
by Bryan Painter Modified: February 12, 2012 at 11:30 am •  Published: February 12, 2012

Shortly after arriving at Chavez Ravine, Greg Harrel, of Cashion, will place a baseball card in his Dodger Stadium locker.

Harrel, 48, is the new assistant athletic trainer of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Only the memories of the man on the well-worn 1998 Oklahoma RedHawks card — the late Greg Biagini — are in mint condition.

“That goes wherever I go,” Harrel said. “So there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him.”

Although Harrel has been a trainer in pro baseball since 1986, including several seasons at Triple-A Oklahoma City, this is his second trip to the major leagues.

The other came in 2003 with the Texas Rangers.

That's the same year Biagini, former manager of the Oklahoma City 89ers and the RedHawks, battled kidney cancer before dying at age 51.

“When I saw him toward the end, he just told me not to take anything for granted,” Harrel said. “He couldn't even taste his favorite foods anymore.”

That's in part why Harrel took some time to savor his memories of baseball before going off to gather new ones starting with spring training in Glendale, Ariz. Some are distant, others more recent. Some are humorous; others are just good baseball stories.

They date to his childhood in Duncan, when his father, Jerry, listened to the Texas Rangers on 820 AM WBAP. Seeing his son show a little interest in baseball, Dad planned a trip to watch the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

A life in baseball

Harrel was hooked — as it turns out, for life — on pro baseball. Although he never suited up for a varsity game for the Duncan Demons, coach Rod Battles noticed Harrel's love for the game. Within a few years, Harrel found another way to achieve his dream. In 1986, when the Rangers offered a Class A minor league job at Daytona Beach, Fla., he packed his bags, and he's been filling them with memories upon memories ever since.

Memories such as that night in 1992 when the 89ers' Steve Balboni stepped to the plate to pinch-hit in Game 2 of the American Association playoffs against the favored Buffalo Bisons.

“He had a sprained MCL, and he could barely move,” Harrel said. “Steve hits a game-tying, pinch-hit home run. We ended up sweeping them in that series. He autographed that bat for me, and I still have it.”

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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at a glance

Greg Harrel

• Age: 48.

• Resides: Cashion.

• Family: Wife, Michelle. Three children — sons Ryan, 13, and Joshua, 10, and daughter Emilie, 7.

• Education: Earned his bachelor's degree in physical education with a business minor from Central State University (now University of Central Oklahoma).

Career

Enters his sixth year with the Dodgers' organization and his first season as an assistant athletic trainer for the major league club. Harrel served as the club's Triple-A athletic trainer with Las Vegas (2007-08) and Albuquerque (2009-11) and was appointed as the organization's head minor league athletic trainer in 2008. Harrel worked for the Rangers (1986-2003), Marlins (2004, also in Albuquerque) and Padres (2006), including one season on Texas' major league staff in 2003.

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