Notes: All trainers not the same
Skipper Cooper supports new helmet rule for base coaches
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Several years ago, Astros head athletic trainer Dave Labossiere handed out bookmarks to reporters with the word "trainer" printed in bold letters, with a big red slash through it.
The message was from the National Athletic Trainers' Association, which was at the time just beginning an earnest effort to educate the general public about the differences between personal trainers and athletic trainers.
Athletic trainers have always preferred to be addressed by their full title, but they began to feel a more pressing need to add the word "athletic" to the everyday lexicon when the BALCO scandal exploded a few years ago. That story largely focused on Barry Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson.
Currently, Brian McNamee has adopted the same type of infamy, having given testimony against Roger Clemens after serving as the Rocket's personal trainer for about a decade. In both cases, the personal trainers have been allegedly involved with providing illegal performance-enhancing drugs to their clients.
Those scandals are touchy subjects among athletic trainers employed by the big league teams. In many instances, fans, reporters, and, most recently, congressional lawyers, have lumped everyone together, removing the "athletic" and the "personal" tags and just calling them all "trainers."
And that makes most athletic trainers cringe.
To be a certified athletic trainer, one must have at least a bachelor's degree in athletic training, must pass a three-part exam, keep their skills current by participating in continuing education and must adhere to practice guidelines set by a national certifying agency.
Personal trainers, on the other hand, need the approval of only one person -- the client. Education and certification are nice to have, but not at all necessary.
"We have a governing body and standards to live up to," Astros assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones said. "We have job descriptions dictated by the state and the national organizations."
The word "trainer" these days has become somewhat of a taboo word, thanks in large part to the news Anderson and McNamee have generated in the last few years. As a result, athletic trainers across baseball are making more of an effort to explain how they're different from the rest.
"With National Athletic Trainers' month coming up in March, it's a good time to say that athletic trainers are feeling that we should be differentiated from personal trainers, because of what's going on with the Clemens situation," Labossiere said.
Helmets: Cecil Cooper and his staff had a meeting with the umpires Monday morning, and one of the topics focused on a new rule dictating that beginning in '08, base coaches will be required to wear helmets while manning their posts at the corners of the diamond.
According to Cooper, the rule will apply to all coaches in the Major and Minor Leagues.
The Astros skipper is fully supportive of this new rule, set in place in response to the tragic incident last year during which former Houston farmhand Mike Coolbaugh was killed by a line drive while he was coaching first base in a Minor League game.
"There are vicious drives that are hit down the lines," Cooper said. "Most of those [coaches] are like me, senior citizens almost."
First-base coach Jose Cruz was recently fitted for his helmet. Coaches can choose helmets with ear flaps, but it's not required.
"He looked like a Little League player," Cooper said of Cruz. "You've got to do it, though."
Cruz isn't entirely thrilled with the idea of wearing a helmet, but he has every intention of adhering to the new guidelines.
"It's too bad they waited until someone was killed," Cruz said. "But we'll do what we have to do. It's good for all the coaches. A lot of the guys have come close to getting killed."
Cooper, Williams meet: Cooper plans to meet privately with all 52 players in camp, and on Monday, he sat down with veteran Woody Williams in an effort to map out the game plan for the right-hander this spring.
Cooper didn't come out and say that Spring Training will serve as a tryout for the 41-year-old Williams, a veteran of 15 big league seasons, but clearly, the right-hander will have to have a good showing throughout the exhibition season to merit a rotation spot.
Williams struggled through an 8-15 season in 2007, his first year with his hometown Astros. Williams is determined to reverse that this season, and he's fully aware that he's promised nothing in these early stages of the spring.
"In today's game it doesn't matter what you're guaranteed financially," he said. "It's a matter of, 'what can you do for me on the field?' It's about winning, especially the way they put this club together. We have to win this year. It's not about next year, it's not about the future."
Williams has no plans for retirement, and he hinted that he could play beyond this year. But he also firmly stated that he would walk away from the game if he didn't feel he could perform at a high level, even if it means leaving money on the table.
"I most certainly would," he said. "That's one thing I always promised myself -- that I wouldn't embarrass myself and hold on longer than I thought I should."
Hearing complete: General manager Ed Wade and his staff participated in a four-hour arbitration hearing with Mark Loretta and his representatives on Monday, and a ruling from the panel is expected within the next two days.
"This was the only case they were hearing today," Wade said. "I wouldn't think the 48-hour rule would be anything they wouldn't be able to adhere to."
Loretta is asking for $4.9 million, while the club is offering $2.75 million. Loretta made $2.5 million after signing as a free agent in 2007, but he earned an extra $1 million in performance bonuses.
Odds and ends: Astros owner Drayton McLane met with the entire coaching staff on Monday and will address the full squad once the position players report on Tuesday. ... Astros pitchers will face hitters for the first time on Wednesday during morning workouts. ... Astros Minor Leauers will hold a minicamp beginning Feb. 25, with players reporting Feb. 24.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.