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Taking care of Rangers and cowboys

Former area resident a trainer for the professional rodeo association

Former area resident a trainer for the professional rodeo association

November 26, 2007|By LARRY YANOS

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Bill Zeigler enjoys his current job ... and that's no bull.

The former Greencastle resident is a trainer for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association - after spending 22 years as a trainer with American League baseball teams the Washington Senators and Texas Rangers.

The 62-year-old Zeigler had seen enough of professional baseball in 1991 and decided to pursue another job.

"Let's just say Mr. (Bobby) Valentine and I didn't see eye-to-eye on some things," Zeigler said of the former Texas manager who piloted the club then. "My first manager was Ted Williams, my last was Bobby Valentine. And I worked for a host of characters in between."

The list included Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin, Frank Luchessi, Eddie Stanky (for one day), Billy Hunter, Pat Corrales, Don Zimmer and Doug Rader.

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Zeigler has traveled throughout the country in his two trainers' positions but the 1963 graduate of Greencastle High School never forgot the Pennsylvania community.

"To me, the two greatest towns in the country are Greencastle and Coopers-town," Zeigler said. "They're very special."

Sports were also very special to Zeigler, who played baseball and basketball in high school.

He attended Florida State on a baseball scholarship and once had aspirations of becoming a major league player.

He found the diamond - only in a different capacity. But years later, he decided to step aside and try a new venture.

"I worked my first rodeo in 1982 when I was still employed with the Rangers and I enjoyed it," Zeigler said. "I was doing it part time then, in the off-season, but when I left the Rangers, I began working the rodeos full time."

Rodeo road

Zeigler's current job description is "athletic trainer" for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and he travels year-round.

The first rodeo is in early January and the last is in mid-December. He works about 30 rodeos and around 140 performances a year.

"The rodeos vary in length and time," Zeigler said. "For example, the rodeo in Fort Worth has 32 performances. Some are three-day events and some are two weeks."

Zeigler said he is employed by the Justin Sports Medicine Program.

"They have 10 trainers throughout the country. Most work at colleges or clinics but I'm the only full-time employee, I work all of the rodeos," he said.

Zeigler travels with the rodeos as far north as Fort Madison, Iowa; as far east as Jackson, Miss.; as far west as Sante Fe, N.M.; and as far south as Corpus Christi, Texas. He also annually works the nationals in Las Vegas in December.

Hurtin' cowboys

The program covers 130 rodeos a year. In baseball, Zeigler addressed things like ankle sprains, bruises, knee problems with the position players, and stretching and exercising with the pitchers, but the rodeo scene is a bit different.

"The extent of injuries really depend on the event," Zeigler said. "In bareback riding, the elbows and lower backs take a beating; in bareback riding, it's elbows and lower back; bull riding, pulled groins and hyper-extended elbows; in steer wrestling, injured knees and ankles. Anything can happen."

Zeigler follows the rodeos with a 40-foot trailer that features taping benches and treatment tables.

"I take care of as much treatment as possible. If it's too severe, we have to send them to a hospital," Zeigler said.

Like all professional sports, personal physical fitness is improving year by year.

"We have guys from 18 years old to close to 40 and they're taking better care of themselves," Zeigler said. "I offer some suggestions but, overall, they take pretty good care of themselves. They have some limited insurance through the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association."

When growing up in Greencastle, Zeigler actually was involved in all sports and - like most youngsters - had dreams of becoming a professional athlete.

He did wind up on the playing field - thanks to three close friends.

"Nellie Fox and Morris Fine from Chambersburg and Tom Zellinger from Greencastle contacted Florida State for me while I was in high school and were instrumental in getting me a college scholarship," Zeigler said. "I attended Manatee Junior College in Florida and played baseball and basketball there. Then, I went on to Florida State and played baseball."

Following graduation, Zeigler was named an assistant trainer for the Florida State baseball team. A few months later, he was reading The Sporting News and saw that longtime Washington Senators' trainer Tom McKenna was leaving for the New York Mets.

"Nellie was a coach for the Senators at the time and I gave him a call," Zeigler said. "I was granted an interview, one thing led to another and I was hired as the head trainer. That was in 1970. What a thrill! I had always been a huge Ted Williams fan and he was the manager. Nellie was the first base coach."

Two years later, Zeigler went with the franchise to Arlington, Texas, and stayed there until leaving in 1991.

"I had a great experience and I miss some of the people involved, but I don't miss the other stuff," Zeigler said. "I am glad I was in it when I was. I saw baseball at its best. I'm also glad I got out when I did. Baseball today isn't the same as baseball was back then. I left the team two years before Jose Canseco came on board."

Zeigler resides near Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, Jill. The family also includes sons Ted, Kim and David, and stepsons Justin and Jarred.

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