As a child, Steve Gober ’98 dreamed about playing Major League Baseball (MLB). He grew up in the batting cages and running bases, knowing he wanted a career in the sport. Gober attended Shenandoah in the late 1990s, playing baseball for the Hornets and intending to study physical therapy. After a few semesters, he realized the athletic training program was a better fit for hime.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, a focus in athletic training and bright hopes for a future in MLB. Today, as assistant athletic trainer for the Washington Nationals (the Nats), he has fulfilled that dream.
“Getting to stand on the first-base line on opening day was a pretty eye-opening experience for me,” said Gober. “It made me feel as if I’d accomplished something I’d set out to do; just to stand out there was a great feeling.”
At Shenandoah, Gober studied with Barry Deuel and Michelle Marston ’90.
“Barry and Michelle molded me into the professional that I am today,” explained Gober. “They gave each of us the opportunity to learn on our own.”
After graduating from Shenandoah, Gober accepted an internship with the New York Mets. Fellow alumnus Brian Chicklo ’95, who worked there, helped Gober get his foot in the door. While working in the Strength and Conditioning Department, Gober also finished his hours in athletic training and passed the athletic training certification exam. He stayed with the Mets for a few years, then took a position with the Montreal Expos. When the Expos were bought by the Lerner family and the franchise moved to Washington, D.C., Gober followed and worked in the minor league system for the Nats from 2005 to 2012. He spent most of his time in Melbourne, Fla., doing rehab with the players. In the fall of 2012, after 13 years in the minor league, Gober was promoted to work with the Washington Nationals.
Gober recalls many great moments in his career. During his first year as an intern with the Mets, Garth Brooks performed at Shea Stadium (now Citi Field). The week before the performance, Gober was assigned to be Brooks’ personal assistant during his stay. A routine intern job turned out to be a memorable experience for Gober. In his first year with the Nats, the team was in game four of the playoffs when outfielder Jayson Werth hit a homerun to win the game.
“The energy in the stadium — you couldn’t describe it!” exclaimed Gober. “Saying it was electric doesn’t touch it. It was pretty special.”
The MLB season is glamorous, but for Gober, who has a wife and three daughters in Pennsylvania, the season can sometimes be hard on his family. The season lasts 162 games, not including playoffs. These 162 games occur over about 180 days. Gober might get two days off a month.
“The baseball season is both a sprint to the finish and a marathon,” said Gober. “It’s a long, daily grind. It’s 100 miles per hour everyday for six to eight months.”
Gober is married to alumna Michelle Edenton Gober ’97, who received her bachelor’s degree in athletic training and played basketball, lacrosse and softball at Shenandoah. She is the associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator at Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pa. Gober explained how busy she is and the many different NCAA committees on which she serves.
“I often say she has a fancier title than me,” remarked Gober.
The couple’s three daughters (ages seven, five and two) are an energetic bunch. Thanks to technology, Gober is able to “facetime” every day with his family, and that makes life easier. His daughters are thrilled when school is out and they can attend baseball games with their dad.
“I always say I have to go to the office; this is my office,” Gober said, pointing to Nationals Park. The stadium, located along the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, D.C., seats more than 40,000 people and cost more than $600 million to construct. “I don’t really consider it a job. It’s not a hobby, because I get paid, but it’s really easy to come to work each day.”
Gober’s success began at Shenandoah. Playing the sport he loved and getting the education he needed to take steps toward his career was a dream come true. Shenandoah’s small-school atmosphere suited him better than a larger institution. He said he would have been lost in the mix at a big school and that Shenandoah’s small classes and individualized attention helped him immensely.
“Shenandoah offers a diverse range of programs that can be catered to almost anyone,” Gober explained. “When I started, I wanted to be a physical therapist. I ended up an athletic trainer. I had an option. A lot of kids at 18 don’t really know what they want to do. Shenandoah provided me with different opportunities to adjust, and it worked out quite well.”