Making it to the Big Leagues

Ichiro Kitano and Erwin Valencia

Two Plymouth State University College of Graduate Studies alumni have made it to the big leagues. Erwin Valencia and Ichiro Kitano are not running the bases; they make the running possible by preventing injury and rehabilitating players when injury does occur. Valencia is the Major League rehabilitation coordinator and team physical therapist for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Kitano is the Minor League athletic trainer for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Valencia G’02 and Kitano G’03 both earned master of education degrees in athletic training. Following graduation, they began their careers at Division I colleges after graduation, eventually moving to the major and minor leagues, respectively. Reflecting on his time at Plymouth State, Valencia noted two people who had a profound impact on his thinking, “Dr. Julie Bernier and Dr. Linda Levy were significant pieces in my graduate life at Plymouth. They imparted on me a true introduction and appreciation for the athletic training profession, and were monumental in mentoring me to make the right decisions on my way to where I am right now.”

The balance Kitano found in his program of study between courses in education and athletic training was significant, “I took classes related to athletic training. At the same time, I had to take classes related to education,” said Kitano. That helps me out sometimes when I communicate with young players. I think that I am not just an athletic trainer for them, but also I am an educator. I try to influence them in good ways. When I was in the graduate program, my English was not as good as it is now. All of the professors in the department and even classmates helped me out. Therefore, I try to pick up Spanish and give our foreign players from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela comfort when they need to talk to me.”

The master’s programs in athletic training integrate practicum and internship experiences. Students are provided the opportunity to practice their academic training outside of the classroom under the guidance of an experienced trainer. Valencia’s mentor during his internship, Chuck Carter, ATC, of Tilton School in Tilton, NH, had a significant impact on his way of thinking. Valencia incorporates in his “practice philosophy” the skills that he learned from Mr. Carter during his experience at Tilton School.

Although both Valencia and Ichiro have moved onto bigger towns, warmer climates, and advanced rehabilitation and training levels, their reflections demonstrate their appreciation for their graduate experience at PSU. “I enjoyed my time in Plymouth and the state of New Hampshire. It was a beautiful place to spend the time for school,” Ichiro remembered. Valencia recalls, “The beauty of the quaint campus, the easy access to Professors, and the genius of the people I was surrounded by made for an overall great experience for an ambitious, yet life-loving Filipino boy from California like me.”


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