Right around the time Cody Bellinger's blast found the outfield seats in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series on Sunday night (Oct. 18), one of Santa Fe's own was deep in the bowels of Globe Life Park going nuts as if he were standing at home plate waiting to high-five the Dodgers' slugger as he crossed the dish.
"You know, moments like that never get old," said Ron Porterfield, who grew up with Dodger blue in his veins and now has a front office spot with the organization he has loved for a lifetime.
Hired as the team's director of player health in 2017, the 1983 St. Michael's graduate will be part of the World Series for the fourth time in a career that dates back to the late 1980s when he and a handful of other New Mexico State graduates broke into professional baseball as athletic trainers.
Porterfield's stops include more minor league parks than he can count, but also two decades with the team the Dodgers will face in Game 1 on Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas. For a dozen years he was Tampa Bay's head trainer. Before that he had eight additional years with the Rays and nine with the Houston Astros.
It's overstating the obvious, but the biggest part of Porterfield's job this year has been dealing with COVID-19 protocols.
"I'm tired of hearing podcasts about putting an asterisk by this season because it's only 60 games," he said Monday (Oct. 19) after a conference call with MLB officials about medical procedures for the final week of the wild and wacky 2020 season. "They need to put a star by it. To get this season off the ground, the people that are talking about putting an asterisk by this have no idea what it took just to get this season going. Zero."
To actually get to this point without a major incident is a testimony to the work done by hundreds of health officials who work for MLB, he said.
"In May, when they first started talking about this I thought, 'No way we're playing this year, there's no chance,' " Porterfield said. "We couldn't do a bubble like the NBA did because you can't put, what, 18 stadiums together in one area. That would be impossible, but the protocols that had to go into place, the talks between the players' association and Major League Baseball, getting everyone to agree, getting the players to comply, then staff coming in, and ownership, then state-by-state county regulations - we had to jump through some serious hoops. So an asterisk on this season? Please."
Each team has specific personnel assigned to administer and collect testing kits from players, but Porterfield's job with the Dodgers was to set up the scheduling. It's a daily task that can be tough, particularly on the pitching staff. Starters have a different routine as position players, so coordinating a time, place and method for conducting tests for each one can be a challenge.
For most of his time with the Rays, Porterfield was as much of a fixture in the dugout as Joe Maddon or Evan Longoria. As head trainer, he had the best seat in the house, mingling with the players every night, home or road. With Los Angeles in the time of COVID-19, protocols prohibit him from sitting in the dugout.
As fun as it would have been to have Bellinger slam his dislocated shoulder against Porterfield on the top step, he had his own moment with the rest of the training staff back in the clubhouse - and that's just fine with the man many in Santa Fe still refer to as Ron John.
"I've already had my time in the sun, so it's some other guys' chance to do that," he said.
Regardless of what happens in the next few days, New Mexico will have a world champion. One of Tampa Bay's assistant trainers is Mike Sandoval, a native of Ratón who graduated the same semester as Porterfield from NMSU in December 1988. The pair broke into pro ball at the same time and it was through Porterfield's recommendation that Tampa Bay hire Sandoval to work with the organization's Triple-A affiliate in Durham, North Carolina, a decade ago.
"I love the guy and I still have a lot of friends on that side, but when the Series starts I'm all about us beating them because, you know, I want that ring," Porterfield said. "Anyone but us and I'm rooting for Mike and those guys. I want my Champagne bath."
Sandoval spent six years in Durham, then joined the big league club in 2017 when Porterfield left Tampa Bay for the job with the Dodgers. For Porterfield, this is his fourth foray into the Fall Classic, having done so in 2008 when the Rays lost to the Phillies, and again for L.A.'s losses to Houston (2017) and Boston (2018).
He said he got to feeling a little nostalgic one morning this summer when he was out for a run in the Chavez Ravine area. With a clear view of Dodger Stadium's upper entrance on one side and Griffith Park and its famed Hollywood sign on the other, he had a flashback to his youth when his parents took the entire family from Santa Fe to SoCal for tourist-friendly stops at Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and, of course, Dodger Stadium.
He pulled out his smartphone, gave a panoramic sweep of the entire area and sent a video message to his siblings about the summer of '78 when he saw the boys in blue during their run to the World Series against the Yankees.
"I can still point to every seat we sat in that night," he said. "To come here as a kid and then come back like this, it's amazing."
Now a mere four wins away from the celebration of a lifetime, one that would cap a bizarre year that seemed so impossible just a few short months ago, Porterfield is all about sharing it with the people back home. He still visits his parents and extended family a few times a year, a trip made that much easier with the job in Los Angeles and a full-time home in Arizona.
"I've got a few more years in this business but, yeah, getting a ring right now after all this - that would be a lot of fun," he said.