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Patch work: Billings Mustangs' trainer Tori Atencio nurturing 'since I could walk'

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Posted at 10:50 PM, Jun 21, 2021

BILLINGS -- She’s the Band-Aid that holds together this year's Billings Mustangs and knew from an early age this was her lifestyle.

"My job is to take care of the guys," Mustangs athletic trainer Tori Atencio told MTN Sports before a recent Pioneer Baseball League game. "Anything from muscle strains and doing rehab to everyday maintenance, just making sure they stay healthy and on the field."

As she wheels her medical kit down the third-base line before pregame introductions, Atencio said a good day at work is one when she doesn't have to leave the dugout. That typically means nobody is hurt. This particular night is a good one.

But that wasn't the case when pitcher Misael Castillo, making his professional debut, was drilled by a line drive in the Mustangs' home opener on May 26.

"I saw it happen. ... I honestly thought he got hit in the head and I was like, 'Oh no,'" Atencio recalled. "Poor guy, he showed up and that was his first outing. He'd been here for, like, maybe 48 hours."

After lying injured on the field for close to a minute, the crisis was averted when Castillo left under his own power.

Atencio said her nurturing instincts started at a young age, trotting alongside her dad, also an athletic trainer, at high school football practices in New Mexico.

"Since I could walk," she said with a smile. "There are videos of me by, like, (age) 2 just hanging out in the training room with a fanny pack handing out Band-Aids."

Fast forward through six years of college at New Mexico State and a recent master's degree, Atencio said one constant remains the same: expect the unexpected.

"Definitely, you have to go with the flow. Nothing ever goes as planned," she said.

Her dream job of reaching pro baseball continued just a few blocks from Dehler Park at MSU Billings. That's where Atencio landed a grad assistant job while she earned her master's degree. She now teaches​ for the school's master's program and is a full-time athletic trainer for Yellowjackets baseball and the sport she grew up playing -- women's soccer.

"When school starts back up again and we start to phase out here, I'll go back up to MSUB and take care of those guys again," she said.

Her daily routine this summer is showing up to the ballpark around 1:30 p.m. every day, updating coaches on injury statuses, then player rehab work and a couple more meetings before players take the field.

"(I) get them ready to go play -- so, taking things off, redoing them, getting them ready to go back on the field," Atencio explained. "And then we're out here until whenever the game is over, and then back to the clubhouse, clean them up for the day and do it again.

"We play 96 games this summer, and how we keep these guys healthy and on the field is a challenge in itself. Your arm is not meant to throw 90-plus miles an hour, so it's just a fun challenge I get to work with every day, and I really love that aspect."

And she's still wearing the fanny pack. Only now, in an adult size.