Oscar Orengo played baseball his whole life. He grew up loving baseball, not just for the sport but also for the relationship it helped build between him and his father. His mother was from Ecuador and his father was from Puerto Rico. Both of his parents had to work hard for everything they had and taught their children the importance of hard work.
“They told us we had to be a doctor or a lawyer,” Orengo said. “And then we had to get a job and work hard.”
When Orengo graduated from high school he applied to many colleges as a pre med student. It wasn’t until he started looking at the curriculum for pre med students that he started looking into other majors. He happened across Athletic Training and realized it was the perfect fit.
“I grew up loving sports,” Orengo said. “And Athletic Training was the perfect combination of medicine and sports.”
Orengo attended undergrad at Boston University where he majored in Athletic Training. Here he had clinical hours with schools like Harvard’s women’s soccer team and Massachusetts Institute Technology’s men’s baseball team. When Orengo graduated from Boston University he applied for an internship at a few major league baseball teams through PBATS, the professional baseball athletic training society.
“They post openings every January and you apply for three teams,” Orengo said. “I applied for the Marlins, the New York Mets and the New York Yankees.”
The Yankees were the only ones that called him back.
While working there, his boss told him if he really wanted to be the best athletic trainer in the league Orengo had to add value to himself and the best way to do that is to get his masters.
So Orengo applied to many graduate programs in the states that summer, one being a small Baptist school in Jackson, Tn.
“I applied everywhere and the only place that called me back that was worthwhile was Union,” Orengo said.
“Karen Sinclair was a big part of me coming to Union,” Orengo said. “She sold me on Union and Dr. Absher assured me that I would get the support I needed for going to school and working here. That was really important to me because I wanted to put my education first.”
“We started looking for a graduate assistant in late May,” Sinclair said. “I was worried we wouldn’t find anyone. Oscar’s information came across my desk in early July and after two weeks of interviewing with him we had hired him.”
Sinclair spent the next 5 years taking Orengo under her wing. She brought him into the Athletic Training community at Union and taught him how to teach.
“Oscar has such a warm heart and encouraging attitude,” Sinclair said. “He never complains about anything and is willing to take hold of any opportunity presented to him.”
“Karen is a really great mentor, really smart and really great boss,” Orengo said. “She really helped me a lot the first few years I was here.”
Orengo started his Masters in Business the following fall at Union University. He spent the next 3 summers traveling back to Tampa, Florida to continue to work part-time for the Yankees.
“After two years, I graduated from Union I had to decide if I wanted to go back to the Yankees or stay at Union,” Orengo said.
Orengo stayed another three years. Orengo became the strength and conditioning coach for softball, worked with multiple sports and got to teach his students his love and passion for his work. As much as Orengo loves his job, his players love him even more.
“He did everything he could to help me through my rehab of my elbow,” Ryne Roper senior elementary education major said. “He wrote me a throwing plan and workout plan specific for my injury. He even played catch with me when my throwing plan started. He is great at what he does.”
Staying at Union not only meant more of a professional growth but also personal growth. Orengo was a kid from New Jersey that went to Boston University that made his way down to Tampa to work for the Yankees, he had never seen a small town like Jackson before in his life, let alone live there. Though the transition of moving to a small town was difficult, Orengo found his place at Union and in Jackson. The Lord used his struggle of transition to grow his faith through the people surrounding him here.
“I found a community here,” Orengo said. “The people here made huge impacts on me in terms of living my life the way I wanted, being a Christian and what that means for me as an individual. And I didn’t want to let that go yet.”
But Orengo, like most baseball players, has the dream of making it to the big leagues, a dream that will probably never go away.
“It’s just figuring out ways to get there,” Orengo said. “But that’s always the goal.”
This past fall Orengo had the chance to return to the big leagues once more and took it. Orengo flew to the Dominican Republic last Friday, February 17, to start his new job as an athletic trainer for the San Diego Padres farm system.
Orengo knows there are long hours ahead, but he’s determined to not put his faith on the back burners. His friends in Jackson have already looked up churches in the area for him to attend.
“It’s now just about me putting my best foot forward and saying this is who I am and He [God] is a part of my life,” Orengo said.
Though Orengo is excited to get back to the beach, something he has not had for five years, his focus is doing the best job he can taking care of his players. Eventually he hopes to move up the ladder but right now he’s ready to gain more experiences and earn the respect of the league.
“This is a great opportunity for Oscar,” Sinclair said. “He’s going to do really well. It’ll be an opportunity for him not only to excel in what he does but to make a positive impact on the players.”
Athletic Trainers in the league sign a one-year contract. There’s never a definite ‘you’ll still have your job after this year’. Growing up, Orengo worked hard for his grades, his sport and his career with the work ethic his parents taught him. He’s ready for this new challenge ahead and anyone who knows Oscar Orengo knows he’ll exceed all expectations.
“Whatever you do,” Orengo’s parents would tell him. “Be the best at it.”