Story by Erin Hallissy
Photo by Andy Kuno

 


 

Sports have always played a major role in the life of Ron Mitchell '95. He grew up in a military family and moved around a lot as a child, but sports always helped him meet other people. He played baseball and football in high school in New Jersey, but was sidelined when his back was injured. The person who helped him most was a chiropractor.

Now Mitchell, 48, is the chiropractor to arguably baseball's most famous and controversial player — Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants left-fielder, who surpassed Babe Ruth's mark of 714 home runs this spring and is now pursuing Henry Aaron's record of 755 homers under the cloud of investigations into alleged steroid use.

"Barry takes really good care of himself," Mitchell says of the slugger, who has dealt with various injuries, surgeries and the inevitable physical limitations that can besiege a 42-year-old player who often described himself this year as old and tired. Mitchell helps Bonds with back problems, but he can't help him with his knee and elbow issues.

Mitchell, who has a bachelor's in health services administration, met Bonds through a mutual friend and was hired in 2000, at Bonds' request, as the Giants' team chiropractor.

"A lot of times you're in the right place at the right time," says Mitchell, a gregarious fellow who lives in Pacifica with his wife, Malissa, and two children, Brittany, 12, and Zachary, 10. "When opportunities present themselves, just be prepared to accept them."

Although Bonds is his primary patient, Mitchell treats anyone on the team who needs his help. And with a "veteran" team, that means a lot of players approach him for help.

"He's very good," says Giants' pitcher Jason Schmidt, who has benefited from Mitchell's chiropractic services. "Being in the clubhouse everyday, he goes beyond the chiropractic thing. A lot of times he'll loosen my legs for me, I'll have him work on my hip flexor and things. Never once has he acted like he didn't want to do it."

Schmidt says Mitchell's positive attitude is a real plus.

"You kind of have a down day, and you get in there and he's the kind of guy you always want to see, just a good guy to have around," the pitcher says. "You can tell he really enjoys what he does. He truly, truly loves to help people."

Mitchell's life has changed since taking the Giants job. Except for 2005, when Bonds spent most of the season on the disabled list, Mitchell travels with the team on road trips, meaning a constant life of air travel, buses and hotels.

"It's a bit grueling," he says, noting that he can't really sleep on a plane. "Most of our travel is between 10 and 11 at night and 3 to 4 in the morning. "You're kind of wired from all the activity going on. A lot of people bring DVD players and personal computers, or they listen to iPods."

His family has learned to live with his absences.

"I get a lot of phone calls from home when I'm gone," Mitchell says. "They understand it's a great opportunity. The players are just really, really great guys, and so is the staff. We're trying to keep a really healthy team, and ultimately to help (head athletic trainer) Stan Conte. My family understands I've got to do my small part in it to make that happen."

Mitchell, who graduated from chiropractic school in 1986, has an office in Pacifica and has founded two chiropractic clinics in Manila. He is pursuing a graduate degree in sports medicine.

Mitchell says he's not sure what will happen if Bonds, who is in the last year of his contract, retires or leaves the Giants. "I'll keep doing it as long as the Giants will have me," he says. "I'm really enjoying it."

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