Former Rangers trainer shares love, expertise for baseball

This is a story about a man and his athletes. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in the Major Leagues, Independent League or college level, the baseball team’s head trainer said he just wants to help.

Danny Wheat, now in his third year with the Horned Frogs, ended a 27-year career with the Texas Rangers system in 2002. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in 1975, Wheat joined the staff of the San Antonio Missions, the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate in the Texas League and later the Tulsa Drillers.

He broke into the Major League ranks in 1985 as an assistant athletic trainer for the Texas Rangers and moved up to the head athletic training position in 1992.

Wheat also served as trainer for the Fort Worth Cats baseball team in the Independent League and Fort Worth Brahmas hockey team before coming to TCU in fall 2004.


After playing basketball and baseball in high school, Wheat said he soon realized his athletic abilities wouldn’t take him far on the college level. He couldn’t just give sports up, he added, so he needed another way to be involved. Athletic training came to be that path.

His time with the UT Longhorns, along with some luck led to a job with the Double-A Rangers affiliate in San Antonio right out of college, Wheat said.

“I was very lucky,” Wheat said. “I was in the right place at the right time, and I had a great recommendation from my university athletic trainer.”

Wheat said TCU was looking for a trainer, a newly created full-time position in 2004, and he jumped on the chance to stay in baseball.

“I guess my experience with the Rangers helped pave the way for that,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Wheat said he appreciates the Horned Frogs’ willingness to take in advice on how to improve their games, but the aluminum bats have given him chills.

“I can’t stand the aluminum bats,” Wheat said. “After 27 years with the Rangers, I just can’t get used to the ‘ping’ instead of the sound off the wooden bats.”


The a general manager switch brought an end to Wheat’s tenure with the Rangers, but he remembered it as “an enjoyable time with a lot of great people.” He credited his colleagues as a reason he was able to stay in the organization as long as he did.

“We had a great support cast,” Wheat said. “I had a great assistant trainer in Ray Ramirez. He was very beneficial and did a lot to help me. We had good people in the front office that appreciated the job we did.”

While longtime Rangers’ hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is the only member of the coaching staff remaining from 2002, Wheat said he makes an effort to go out to the ballpark whenever any of his former colleagues are visiting.

“I see Rudy (Jaramillo) every once and a while,” Wheat said. “I make it a point whenever Boston’s in town to go see (former bench coach and current Red Sox manager) Terry Francona. And hopefully, I’ll be able to see (former Rangers manager and current Reds manager) Jerry Narron with Cincinnati somewhere along the line.”

Wheat said the 1996, 1998 and 1999 American League West Division championship seasons, the most successful in team history, stick out in his mind more than any individual honor he ever received.

Wheat served as the trainer for the American League in the 1995 All-Star game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and was selected to go on a tour of Japan with the 1998 All-Stars.


Wheat said the average fan equates athletic trainers with rehabilitation following injuries but doesn’t consider any preventive measures, the part of the job he sees as the most important.

Wheat developed a special exercise program for pitchers at the professional level that he said has translated to the college level with no problems. The arm exercises were popular with Jake Arrieta and former Horned Frog standout Lance Broadway, he said.

Junior pitcher Chris Johnson said the routine changes daily but usually includes a day dedicated to the rotator cuff and another one focused on scapular stabilization.

Athletic trainers, such as Wheat, receive little recognition for the parts of their job they do away from the injury circuit, Johnson said.

“Nobody notices that he gets our meals ready before the games,” Johnson said. “He gets us fruit and stuff during games to help us keep our energy level up.”

Wheat also works with some of the athletic training majors. He said along with skills, he hopes they come away with a strong work ethic and a sense of compassion for people, two qualities he said will carry them throughout their careers.