Abe, 39, was hired as the organization’s new assistant MLB trainer. If you couldn’t tell from the name, yes, he’s Japanese. He was born in Aiehi, Japan, and attended high school there before coming to the US to attend University of Northern Colorado. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in Athletic Training in 2007, Abe went on to earn a master’s degree in biomechanics from Louisiana State University.
As far as his professional career goes, Abe’s always worked in baseball. He joined the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and has been moving up the minor league system as an athletic trainer. Last season he served as the Athletic Trainer for the Triple-A Reno Aces, where he was responsible for the care of over 60 different players, including four big leaguers on rehab assignment. His efforts apparently did not go unnoticed, as he was named the Pacific Coast League Trainer of the Year! Apparently, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) gives an award to the top trainer in each of the 16 minor leagues baseball leagues every year, which is something I’ve never heard of before being a Minnesota Twins fan. As the winner of the award in the PCL, Abe is now in the running for the 2017 Minor League Athletic Trainer of the Year award, which will be announced during baseball’s upcoming Winter Meetings.
It’s probably obvious why this new hire caught my eye: he’s Japanese, and the Twins have been rumored to be pursuing Japanese stars Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani. Obviously there is no way of telling whether this is at all related to those pursuits, but having a athletic trainer who speaks Japanese doesn’t seem like it would hurt — particularly in Ohtani’s case, since teams have to actively convince him that their organization is a good fit. In fact, former Mariners front office executive Tony Blengino was recently on Fangraphs’ Effectively Wild podcast to talk about the memo Ohtani asked each team to write about themselves, and he believes several of the questions Ohtani asked were specifically aimed at finding out how teams treated rehab and injuries.
Heck, Ohtani may already know Abe, since Abe served as the trainer for team Japan during the WBC earlier this year. Though Ohtani didn’t get to participate in the tournament because of an ankle injury, he’d at least had some contact with the coaching staff.
So does this mean the Twins are getting Ohtani!? No, obviously not — but like I said, it certainly doesn’t hurt. At the very least, Abe sounds like he’s a good trainer, and we all know the Twins medical staff needs all the help they can get.