The Atlanta Braves gave him everything he could have wanted.
For Mike Frostad, the team’s assistant athletic trainer, that included a chance to keep working in Major League Baseball (MLB) and the sport’s most coveted possession, a World Series ring.
But before the parade buses got rolling to celebrate the Braves championship, the Los Angeles Angels made a Godfather move that would do Don Vito Corleone proud: they made Frostad an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Leave Atlanta for Los Angeles, and his promotion would include not one, but two new job titles. And with those positions of head athletic trainer and director of sports medicine, Frostad was also given access to two of the most celebrated players in baseball in the form of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
“It was kind of a shock to me,” recalled Frostad in Episode 158 of ADS: The Podcast.
“After the dust had kind of settled a little bit, our front office came to me and said that the Angels were interested in speaking with me about a position with them and, you know, I’ve always wanted to be a head athletic trainer in the major leagues and they came in and offered me more than that.”
In addition to the chance to build and oversee the club’s entire sports medicine department, there were compelling personal reasons to head west, as well.
“Ideally, for my wife and myself being on the West Coast is going to be a lot better for our family situation,” noted Frostad.
After two years of pandemic living, ease of travel is more of a reason than ever to make job changes. Based in the town of Redcliff with wife Candice Henson, an intensive care unit nurse and clinical nursing teacher at Medicine Hat College, Frostad is now able to chop at least an hour off of his flight time and the change in time zone is also more friendly. With Spring Training games shifting from Florida’s Grapefruit League to Arizona’s Cactus League, that commute is easier as well, inviting the potential of a road trip south.
“I don’t know if I would be here without her support. She’s definitely been the rock that kind of holds things together, no doubt,” said Frostad of Henson, who has been heavily involved in baseball in the Medicine Hat-area for years. She was also able to attend Atlanta’s World Series home games at Truist Park but missed out on the Game 6 clincher in Houston.
“It’s just going to be overall a better situation for the family, but even in general, just to have the opportunity to build a department around what we want to have accomplished in Anaheim is kind of the dream right now. I’m fortunate that they approached me and it was something that I couldn’t refuse.”
Looking ahead to his new roles, Frostad expects cohesiveness to be key.
“The collaboration between the different areas of the department, with strength and conditioning, and massage, and physical therapy, and nutrition, and mental health, just kind of bringing everything together, making sure that everybody is on the same page and just putting together a good formulated plan for every player that we need to on every single day of the season,” he said.
“It’s a lot of work, it’s challenging, but I think with the right people in place we’re going to be able to be very successful in that aspect.”
Frostad has also seen growth in how teams handle the mental health of their players over the years.
“There wasn’t a lot of access to mental skills or mental health professionals in baseball, and really in a lot of sports for that matter a few decades ago and it’s really taken a front seat to everything,” he said.
“Not only does it affect your play but it affects your life. You know, your family is involved, you’ve got kids, your wife … and for teams to recognize that it is an important aspect is huge for these players going forward.”
Frostad pointed to Carey Price, goaltender with the Montreal Canadiens, as an example of the importance of prioritizing the mental health of professional athletes. In such situations, players may have to step away from the game for an extended period of time, but they will return as more complete and capable people when their entire health situation is considered and treated.
When he was asked about the task of caring for Ohtani, Trout and pitcher Noah Syndergaard – a trio of Angels players who have battled through numerous injuries in recent years – Frostad said he’s ready for that responsibility.
“I’m going to be able to handle that part of it, you know, from my development that I’ve had with the Blue Jays and with the Braves. We’ve kind of had to deal with this adversity and I’ve learned along the way, I’ve been mentored, and been able to develop the skills that are needed to be able to handle those players and I know I’m not in it alone. That’s the big thing. I’ve got other people surrounding me that are going to be invaluable with their input and invaluable with what they bring to the table to help to keep these guys healthy,” said Frostad.
FROM THE GRIDIRON TO THE DIAMOND
It’s been a “crazy journey” for Frostad, who got his start as an athletic therapy student at the University of Calgary in the mid-1990s.
Frostad worked with the Dinos football team in 1995 when the squad went to the Vanier Cup at the SkyDome in Toronto, a game the U of C won decisively over the Western Mustangs in front of 29,178 fans.
Little did he know at the time that his tenure in Ontario was just getting started.
Frostad met with some members of the Blue Jays staff and he kept in touch with them in the months after he returned home to Calgary. When a position opened up with the organization in the spring of 1996, Frostad was interviewed and hired.
He spent nine years as a minor league athletic trainer, including two seasons with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays. The work included doing laundry at the hotel at 2 a.m. and one of the teams he was with didn’t even have a hitting coach. Resources were often stretched thin and many of the tasks requiring attention were tedious, but necessary to keep the players on the field.
A five-year athletic training coordinator gig followed and between 2010 and 2017 he served as Toronto’s assistant athletic trainer.
“Those experiences early on really helped shape me for down the road, where I’m at now, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the Blue Jays organization for giving me the opportunity to get started. I did spend 22 years there and they were great. I got to break into the big leagues with them,” said Frostad in Episode 66 of ADS: The Podcast back in November of 2019.
His term with the Blue Jays included postseason games and an up-close viewing of Jose Bautista’s epic playoff bat flip.
“I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything right now,” said the U of C grad.
“The bat flip was definitely one of the biggest moments in Blue Jays lore and unfortunately I was watching the ball and not the bat, so I got to see it as most people did, on TV after the fact.”
BRAVE NEW WORLD
The highs were met with lows along the way. Frostad and head trainer George Poulis were let go by the Blue Jays at the end of the 2017 campaign.
“I was devastated, to be quite honest. I had spent half of my life as a Blue Jay … it really kind of hurt at the time,” remembered Frostad.
He didn’t remain unemployed for long, however.
When former Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos took on the GM role in Atlanta in 2017, he hired Poulis, who in turn brought Frostad over to the Braves.
“He and I worked together for many, many years … he was able to bring me over to the Braves and give me a fresh start,” said Frostad.
“I found that in this situation the grass is a little bit greener on the other side and I landed on my feet in a good spot.”
READ MORE: Soaking It All In
Four straight playoff runs by the Braves culminated in the ultimate achievement of a World Series victory for Frostad and the club in 2021.
“I don’t even think I would’ve dreamt of it, honestly,” said Frostad.
“It’s just elation all around. We worked so hard for this year after year, not just this year but year after year … it’s awesome to be able to accomplish that with those people that you put in the amount of time with that we have together.”
Frostad uses the word “fortunate” a lot in discussing baseball and what the sport has meant to him.
“The game of baseball has been my life. I’ve done this for more than half of my life. It’s been the only career that I’ve had. I’m fortunate to be involved in what is unquestionably one of the greatest games in the world. I know everybody in Canada loves their hockey, but to get our players through a 162-game season and to know that you’ve made a difference in their lives and their careers is so satisfying,” he said.
“Baseball has afforded me that opportunity to be able to say that I’ve been there and done that and finally won that World Series. I’m living the dream, really.”
And now he cannot wait to bring that dream to California.