Initial Move Helped Woman Trainer Get Job

SHREVEPORT, La. - Ever so slowly, a wall is coming down. One brick at a time.

Donna Papangellin kicked one of those bricks out herself.

As the trainer for the Tulsa Drillers, she is a woman in the decidedly male world of professional baseball.

"When I first sent out resumes to baseball teams, I got no responses," said the California native, who is the niece of the late National League umpire Chris Pelekoudas.

"The next year, I decided to do something different. Instead of using my full name, I decided to use my first and middle initials. I heard back from 20 of the 26 teams I sent resumes to."

One team, the Cleveland Indians, called.

"When they found out I was a woman, they hemmed and hawed," she said.

While she was waiting to hear more from Cleveland, Marty Scott, the Texas Rangers' minor-league director, called.

"He was caught off guard," Papangellin said of his reaction to her gender. "But it didn't bother him."

So she got a job as a minor-league trainer in the Rangers' organization.

"It was frustrating to have to go to those kinds of lengths to get a chance," she said.

According to the National Athletic Trainers' Association, more and more women are becoming athletic trainers. Charged with the treatment and prevention of injuries, along with overseeing the general well-being of athletes, trainers enjoy a steady, rewarding occupation.

"We have a national membership of 17,000, (and) 43 percent are

women," said Ron Cunningham, NATA director of communications. "Every year, we gain 1,000 new women members."

He said women work as trainers at every level in the business - clinical, secondary school, collegiate and professional.

However, there are only 12 female trainers in all of professional sports.

"Right now, it is real tough for a woman to get into professional sports," said Donna Elter, an assistant trainer at Louisiana Tech. "It's that old way of thinking that good girls don't belong in a training room."

In some areas, it extends to the college ranks, where women have found few opportunities in football.

Papangellin said she had to overcome a lot of antiquated arguments against women working as baseball trainers.

"Part of the attitude is that women will not stay with it as long as a men, that they'll get married," she said. "Does that mean she can't be a trainer anymore? There are a lot of male trainers who are married."

The problem most people have with female trainers for men's sports is that the clubhouse or the locker room is not gender neutral.

Papangellin's answer to that is direct.

"If I behave in a professional manner, the players will see me as a professional," she said.

"I respect people's privacy. If I don't need to be in the clubhouse, I don't go in the clubhouse."

Tulsa outfielder Rod Morris said, "It was kind of odd at first, having a woman in the training room. We had to kind of watch ourselves and watch what we said. But after a while, we just forgot all about it. She makes it easy for us. We just leave it up to her."

Papangellin gets good reviews from her players.

She said she finds the players easy to work with.

"It's funny, but some of the players seemed a little scared of me at first," she said. "I'm all of 5-foot-3; I'm not a scary person.

"When a player is hurt, they're going to go to the person who can help them. Some of them seem to work better with me because I am a woman. Women are traditionally care-givers."