Sue Falsone is still getting used to being first. The interview requests have been coming in ever since October, when Falsone was named head athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Dodgers — the first woman to hold that title in any professional sports league.
So have the questions about seeing the Dodgers in the buff. For the record, Falsone, 38, says that doesn't happen.
“I stay out of the clubhouse locker room. I spend my time in the training and weight rooms,” she says, relaxing in a golf cart outside the entrance to the spring training clubhouse in Glendale, Ariz. “It's about mutual respect.”
This was an easy day for Falsone — just 12 hours. The day before was a split-squad game with players at two locations. She was up at 5 a.m. and left the Glendale complex at midnight, then came back at 6 a.m. for the noon start of the game against the Cubs.
Falsone was shocked to learn she was breaking a glass ceiling. But she also understands why it took so long. “A lot of it is tradition,” she says. “It's always been that way.”
Dodger manager Don Mattingly says the new generation of players put out a welcome mat for Falsone because female trainers were a given in their school sports programs.
“They grew up with it. They're used to it,” Mattingly says. “It wouldn't have happened in my day.”
An engaging, blue-eyed blonde with zero body fat, Falsone never thought of L.A. as her goal, nor did she aim to become a major league trainer. She grew up in Buffalo cheering the NFL Bills and NHL Sabres and spent much of her career working with football and hockey players at Phoenix-based Athletes' Performance. When the Dodgers named Athletes' Performance's Stan Conte as head trainer, Falsone was snagged to be his second-in-command. When the Dodgers promoted Conte, they wanted Falsone to take over as head trainer.
“Stan and I had a number of conversations about it, but we always ended up laughing,” Falsone says. Finally, she says, “it was an idea that grew legs and ran. It's not a matter of whether I did or didn't get the job because I'm a woman. It's shocking that it's 2012 and we finally see a woman in this position.”
Now she's getting used to Los Angeles. She recently found a place to live in Pasadena “because it's close to work.” She says, “I don't understand that about L.A. Why don't people live closer to where they work?”
While the traffic is mind-boggling, Falsone said she finds L.A. fascinating because “the city is made up of a bunch of little towns and neighborhoods with all these different feels and cultures.”
For the weekend warrior, Falsone has some tips: Don't overdo it. Just because you were an athlete in high school doesn't mean you can run up Kenter Canyon without building up to it. “You have to put the work in,” she says. “There are no shortcuts.”
Especially not from Buffalo to home plate in L.A.