The following press release was submitted by Jeff Murphy, Media Relations with The University of Central Missouri.

Although many people are missing the professional baseball season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, at least one University of Central Missouri student had a rare opportunity to experience professional baseball briefly this spring from an insider’s perspective. He not only gained valuable hands-on experience in his chosen career path, but he also got to interact with UCM alumni who have found their niche in professional baseball.

Kota Nakano, a junior in the athletic training program, was awarded an internship with the Kansas City Royals. As part of the Japanese Baseball Athletic Trainers' Association and the MLB Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers' Association partnership, Nakano was able to spend more than two weeks in Surprise, Arizona, working with invited Japanese Athletic Trainers and the Kansas City Royals Athletics Training and Strength and Conditioning staffs during their spring training season.

While in Arizona, Nakano got to interact with all of these healthcare providers, while also getting the opportunity to perform many of the same tasks that an athletic trainer would do with any professional baseball team, according to Brian Hughes, director of the Athletic Training Program in the School of Nutrition, Kinesiology and Psychological Science. This includes tasks such as treatments and rehabilitation, injury management, and game/field set-up.

Nakano also had an opportunity to visit with UCM alumni who have found athletic training professional positions with the team. Among them is Dylan Wilson, a 2014 graduate of the athletic training program who is the head athletic trainer for the Royals Urban Youth Academy (UYA) in downtown Kansas City. Wilson serves as a preceptor for the athletic training program while students are assigned to work with him at the UYA. Another UCM alumnus, Danny Accola, who graduated in 2014, serves as the head athletic trainer at the Royals spring training facility in Surprise, Arizona. In that capacity, he works with several of the Royals' rookie league team members.

Nakano becomes the third international student to be enrolled in the athletic training program to benefit from this rare internship opportunity. Two other UCM students who previously participated were Takao Iwano, a 2016 graduate, and Yoshihiro Kojima, who earned his degree in 2018.

UCM has another strong connection with the Royals through head strength and conditioning coach Luiz Perez, who is a former Mules baseball player, and a 2007 graduate of UCM.