Whitehall grad Steve Gober is getting ready for spring training with the Washington Nationals

He is getting set for his first season as the major league baseball team's assistant trainer.

The high temperature on Monday in the Lehigh Valley is supposed to be 29 degrees.

It's not supposed to crack 40 until Thursday.

But Steve Gober spent this past weekend making sure to stock up on short-sleeve shirts and sun block.

That's because Gober, a Whitehall High graduate, is headed to Viera, Fla., this week to work as the assistant athletic trainer for the Washington Nationals.

It's a new role for Gober, who has been with the Nationals organization since 2002 and a promotion from his previous title of medical and rehab coordinator.

As assistant trainer, Gober will be in the dugout for all Nationals games, home and away.

He will work closely with the team's head athletic trainer, Lee Kuntz, a Lehighton native.

"It's a big step for me and I'm pretty excited about it," Gober said. "It's kind of what I always dreamed of doing. As a kid, I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Unfortunately, I didn't have that ability."

But just like Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and the rest of the Nationals stars, Gober can still help the team win games in his role on the medical staff.

"Hopefully, I can help us win by working hard to keep guys on the field," he said. "It's a pretty interesting gig. I am actually part of the players union and covered in the collective bargaining agreement. It's a pensioned position. It's a huge step for me."

Gober still makes his permanent residence in the Lehigh Valley. "It's still a great place to live and raise a family," he said.

His wife, Michelle, is the associate director of athletics at Kutztown University.

With the rigors of spring training to be followed by a 162-game regular season and then, possibly, another postseason run, Steve spent the last few months devoted to quality time at home with Michelle and their daughters, Gabrielle, 7, Hannah, 5, and Charlotte, 2.

"It is going to be different this year," he said. "I will probably see my family a little bit less. You just get used to this kind of life. It's all we know, it's all we've ever done. We've had this lifestyle since I graduated from college.

"I am used to doing a lot of traveling because in my previous role, I was going around to all of the minor league affiliates," Gober said. "Like when Strasburg was making all of his rehab starts, and Jordan Zimmerman, and Chien-Ming Wang were rehabbing, I was going to Harrisburg, Syracuse or Hagerstown. on the days that they pitched to make sure everything was OK."

Gober said that being part of a rising organization like the Nationals has been fun, especially last season.

"I was in the dugout with the Nationals twice when the Phillies clinched division titles and when I watched their celebration I was just hoping I'd get to experience the same thing with our team," Gober said. "So, last year, was really rewarding, and I felt like I was a part of it because I had worked with so many guys and helped them get back on the field after they had surgeries and major injuries."

He said the Game 5 loss to the Cardinals in the NLDS, a game in which the Nationals led 6-0, was "devastating" even for someone who grew up a Cardinals fan like Gober.

"It went from as high as you can go to as low as you can go in just a couple of minutes," he said. "It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was looking forward to taking that next step and advancing to the NLCS. You're not a player, but you do feel a part of it. You get some of the same excitement and emotion like the players. Hopefully, we can get to that ultimate goal this year and win a world championship."

Gober, who helped Whitehall's basketball team win district titles in 1991 and 1992, became interested in the medical profession through former Zephyrs trainer Joe Starner.

He played baseball at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and that's why he's comfortable being around the sport and the guys.

"We've got great people in this organization," he said. "They all have different personalities and they each bring something different. You get a little bit every from a high profile guy like Strasburg to a Division III college player from some small town that no one has ever heard of.

"Sometimes I feel like a team psychologist or a team mom because these guys will confide their true feeling about things to you, and tell you things they won't share with anyone else. But from top to bottom, from the owners right down to the guys doing the laundry, we're pretty good and that makes my job easier."

As for the National League East race this season, Gober said: "I don't know. I have to admit, we're in a pretty tough division. But it's going to be a lot of fun. I can't wait to get started."

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