Delivering Innovation

Most have heard of massage therapy and understand the basic premise of what massage is. Yet how many even named three widely known massage therapists off the top of their heads? After some reckless comments directed at her, one such masseuse, Kelly Calabrese, found herself overnight becoming one of the most publicized professionals in the industry. Now what was said and who exactly is Kelly Calabrese?

While still attending a Cleveland massage school in 1995, Calabrese received a client who was interested in a sports massage. Duly impressed with the massage, the client referred Kelly to some of his friends, some of whom played Major League Baseball for the Cleveland Indians. While completing his studies, Calabrese continued to massage some of the Cleveland Indians. After a trade got some of the players she massaged in Atlanta, Kelly found herself making trips to Atlanta to continue to massage some of the players. Word spread in Atlanta of his services and he chose some additional players. One of these players was a first baseman named Ryan Klesko.

Klesko asked Kelly to move to San Diego to continue massaging him and maybe other players. Taking a big risk, he left his practice in Cleveland and headed to sunny San Diego, California. During the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Kelly balanced building a new practice along with performing part-time massages for some of the San Diego Padres, the team to which Ryan Klesko was traded. As feedback and evidence of her healing abilities began to emerge, the Padres head coach Todd Hutcheson offered Kelly a full-time position after the conclusion of the 2003 season. Kelly’s role He has been massaging and stretching 10 to 15 players a day. She has become the first woman to reach a club bench during games and travels with the team on road trips. Kelly Calabrese’s role with the Padres was mostly kept out of the press, aside from a few interviews and local stories here and there. All of this changed in early 2006.

Former baseball player and current New York Mets color television commentator Keith Hernandez made the following comments upon witnessing a replay of Calabrese giving players high-fives on the bench:

“You’ve got to be kidding me … I won’t say that women should be in the kitchen, but not on the bench.”

Hernández later apologized for the comments.

While at first glance these comments should be construed as negative, they ended up having a positive impact on massage therapy in general, women massage therapists in non-traditional roles, and Kelly Calabrese herself.

In interview after interview conducted by the press with many of Calabrese’s patients (the San Diego Padres players), the criticism was enthusiastic.

Manager Bruce Bochy said: “Kelly is part of this club, part of this coaching staff. She plays an important role in this club helping the guys get ready for the ball game.”

Second baseman Eric Young “She was part of the equation that made me come back so fast,”

37-year-old catcher Mike Piazza “The fact that I’m in an advanced age when it comes to baseball players, if I didn’t have someone like Kelly treating me every day, I wouldn’t be able to play as much as I have.”

And these are just a few of the positive comments Kelly has received.

Kelly recently changed her title to “Sports Therapist” from her original title as a Massage Therapist, as it more appropriately fits her role.

But whatever the name, the awareness that Kelly Calabrese has created for women and massage therapists as a whole has gone a long way to breaking down any misconceptions and prejudices that may exist.

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