As the crowd settles in for first pitch, Amanda Sartoris, M.S. ’16, has already put in what most would consider a full day’s work. When the stands empty after the final out, an important part of her shift is just beginning.
Sartoris, who grew up on a farm in Pontiac, wouldn’t have it any other way. She was stricken at a young age with the sports bug that has never relinquished. That blue-collar mentality is why she got a job in Major League Baseball.
Sartoris was hired by the Miami Marlins as an assistant strength and conditioning coach in mid-May, becoming just the second full-time performance coach in the league’s 152 years. She is determined to be more than a footnote in history. She’s there to help her team get better each and every day, which she does with great pride.
While Sartoris appreciates that she is a role model to young females, what matters most to her is being at the top of her game so she can keep players at the top of theirs. “Just showing up, doing your job, and being yourself does wonders,” said Sartoris, who was a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach while completing a kinesiology and exercise science master’s degree.
Sartoris implemented training programs for men’s and women’s golf, as well as the women’s tennis program. She also worked with the women’s basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball, and soccer teams. Aside from the performance aspect, Sartoris grasped the nuances of coaching while working with Redbird Athletics. “I learned everything on the floor at Illinois State, and I’m forever grateful for that.”
She realized how each athlete processes instruction and information differently. Because she worked with so many campus teams, she saw many perspectives and learned to adapt her responses as she coached.
“She had an unwavering high expectation for the athletes she worked with and created an environment that they wanted to meet and exceed them,” said Director of Athletic Performance Ryan Swenson, M.S. ’15, who worked with Sartoris in graduate school. “The combination of those characteristics mixed with her energy and ability to connect with people allowed her to set the stage for where she has reached so far.”
Sartoris quickly climbed the ladder after graduating. A former Division I softball player at Louisiana-Monroe, she was a strength and conditioning coach at IMG Academy in Florida before taking over as the director of strength and conditioning at Salem University in West Virginia for the 2018-2019 school year. From there, she joined Major League Baseball and worked with the Arizona Fall League for two months before transitioning to the Marlins organization in January 2019. She spent time with their minor league affiliates prior to the big-league jump.
During spring training last year, Sartoris got word of a push within the organization to add a full-time strength and conditioning coach. A mentor encouraged her to go after it. She pitched the position to higher-ups and by May, she was working exclusively with the two-time World Series champions.
Big league life is romanticized with a glamorous appeal. Teams stay at five-star hotels and fly on chartered planes. But every day is a grind, as confirmed by Sartoris’ schedule.
Her itinerary for a typical 7 p.m. game is to arrive at the ballpark in the early afternoon for her own workout before working individually with pitchers on a bullpen session or a lift of their own. It’s either an activation workout for the game ahead or heavier work for a player with a scheduled off day from the lineup.
Sartoris then preps the weight room and makes sure workouts are on the board with equipment ready. She gets in mobility work with pitchers and position players, leads a stretch, and then heads to the field for conditioning.
During the game, Sartoris is in the dugout crunching data, watching how players are moving on the field, and working with pitchers who want to get in a lift after an outing. After the game, she works individually with players on recovery or with guys who want to get in a short, explosive lift. Her day ends with a meal and the trek home.
“The biggest thing would be consistency,” Sartoris said. “As long as we can keep the guys in the weight room a couple of days a week for lifts and then a couple of mobility days to balance things out, it will go a long way for their recovery and performance.”
The Marlins hit .239 while slugging .384 in June, July, and August—the months where Sartoris was a full-time coach—compared to .232 and .365 in April and May. Batting average and slugging percentage can both be measurements of how Sartoris’ work shows up on the field. The same goes for strikeouts on the mound. Marlins’ pitchers punched out a season-best 236 batters in June.
Even though Sartoris is focused on improving the team’s performance, she can’t help but look into the crowd and see parents pointing her out to their young daughters.
Self-motivation has gotten Sartoris to her enviable position. She has a desire to be great, and she’d have that drive no matter what she chose to pursue. But she also embraces the significance of her presence and what it might mean for future generations.
“I want young girls to see that they don’t have to shut any possibilities out,” Sartoris said. While she hopes the novelty of being one of the first females in a male-dominated sport soon wanes as doors continue to open, she’s humbled to be someone whose journey has helped turned the lock.