HAGERSTOWN —For the next four days, Tom Amalfitano will be living a dream come true.
The problem is, he isn’t really sure what to call it.
If he were a college kid, it could be spring break. If he was on “Undercover Boss,” it would be a shot at seeing how the other half lives.
He could also live that athletic dream of getting the call to the majors. Then again, the Hagerstown physician could be just making one heck of a house call.
No matter how it’s labeled, Amalfitano admits he will be fulfilling the chance of a lifetime today when he becomes a visiting team doctor at the Washington Nationals spring training camp in Viera, Fla.
“I’m excited,” Amalfitano said Tuesday before he departs this afternoon. “It’s been fun working with all the minor league players that have come here to play. Now I’ll get the chance to see what it’s like with the major leaguers.”
Amalfitano, a partner at Mid-Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists at Meritus Medical Center, has worked with a number of local athletes over the years. He will be entering his sixth year of work with the Nationals as the team physician of the Hagerstown Suns.
Because of his work in the Nationals’ organization and the length of spring training, Amalfitano was asked to come down and work for a few days to help out.
“Spring training goes on for six weeks and it’s tough for the Nationals’ team physician to stay down there the whole time, away from his family and practice,” Amalfitano said. “That would be kind of extreme. What the club does is utilize other parts of the Nationals’ staff to fill in.”
For the Suns, Amalfitano is ultimately the head doctor and medical coordinator for the Single-A team’s health needs.
Most team doctors are orthopedic surgeons because “most athletes who play at this high level are young and usually need someone to work with musculoskeletal problems, like their arms or legs,” he said.
“I coordinate the care with the team trainer and try to put together a team of doctors here to help in special situations, like dentists. If it’s outside of my realm, I look outside.”
So, Amalfitano is packing up to go to camp. He will basically be working when the team is working out.
He said his schedule during his stint will consist of many preseason physicals for late arrivals and minor leaguers coming to camp. He will also work two Nationals games.
“I’ve seen these players in our culture here and it isn’t as fancy as their culture,” Amalfitano said. “I’m going to be immersed in the culture of major league baseball.
“I’ll be there to be immediate response if anything happens. I will be there for immediate response and discuss options. It’s no different than the team physicians for a NFL game.”
After work will be the fun part when Amalfitano will have the opportunity to mingle with players during down time. While it will be interesting, he said it’s easy to put in perspective.
“There have been some pretty good players who have come through here,” he said. “The one thing I’ve learned that they are people just like we are.”
For Amalfitano, the trip will be something he can mark off of a bucket list. He has the blessing of his family and partners to go for the experience because, he said, “You never know if there is going to be a next year.”
And in reality, the perfect scenario for the Nationals and their players will be if Amalfitano heads down to work this week and has nothing to do.
“As a sports medicine physician for many years, you really don’t ever want to have to be used,” he said.