Steve Carter, decades after he served as Concord High School’s first student-trainer, is going back to his professional roots and will again work with student-athletes after 25 years with professionals.
Carter, a 1978 Concord graduate who became Jim Routhier’s first student trainer while nursing a football injury suffered in eighth grade, went from Indiana University to a career as an athletic trainer, first at Evansville Central High School and then with the Detroit Tigers organization.
After six years in the minors (Fayetteville, N.C., Lakeland, Fla., Toledo, Ohio), Carter has served the past 19 years as an assistant trainer with the big league team in Detroit.
On Nov. 11, Carter begins his new job as head trainer at Cranbrook Kingswood Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
“The opportunity came up real quick and I decided to take it,” said Carter, who will go from a 70- to 90-hour week with the Tigers staff, led by head trainer Kevin Rand, to about a 30-hour week at the prep school. “It’s a dream job so I jumped at it. It’s a very elite school and I will get to work with elite high school athletes.”
Another plus about the new job is Carter will not be traveling for nine months of the year. Since joining the Tigers staff, Carter has been at about 200 games per year February through October — spring training, regular season and postseason. That means about two weeks each month away from his home and family. Steve and wife Tari have a blended family of six.
Not that Carter won’t miss baseball and its relationships.
“Every day is different,” said Carter. “I’ll miss the camaraderie of the staff and players and the memories.”
Carter, who grew up as a fanatic of the Chicago Cubs, has become a better student of the game while watching from the dugout.
The biggest change Carter has witnessed in his quarter century on the job is the pressure that comes with the ever-increasing salaries.
Carter said there are so many people — executives, field staff, agents — weighing in on what the athlete should do.
“Players have more pressure to play, to stay on the field,” said Carter. “(As trainers), we do what’s best for the athlete. Sometimes, that interferes with what’s best for the club. It puts stress on everybody.
“(As trainers), we always go to the players’ side. We won’t play guys before they’re ready.”
Carter said the dynamic is a little different at the high school level.
Sure, coaches want their athletes back in the game. But money is not involved and many athletes have time on their side.
“Parents love you because you are taking care of their son or daughter,” said Carter.
The son of Betty and the late Charles Carter first became interested in athletic training at age 12 and learned plenty from Routhier at Concord while the coach helped Carter get back on the football field for his last two high school seasons.
Carter and Routhier have maintained contact through the years.
“We talk often,” said Carter. “He’s proud of me and I’ve always looked to him as a mentor.”
Carter credits Routhier for teaching him how to talk to athletes and how to gain their trust.
“You want to make them comfortable if they are hurting,” said Carter.