Patrick Finley: The zen of tape, stretching

Award from peers won't disturb peace of Pima's Carbajal
2012-07-10T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:37:03Z Patrick Finley: The zen of tape, stretchingPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 10, 2012 12:00 am  • 

No one writes about guys like Ben Carbajal. I'm going to give it a shot.

For 33 years and 11 months, Ben's been an athletic trainer at Pima College.

He's been married for almost 23 years - he has three daughters - and has lived in the same Tucson house for 20 years.

Save a one-year stint in West Texas, after he received his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the UA, Pima has been the trainer's only job.

And it probably will be the last for the 57-year-old.

I learned about Ben when he won the Bill Chisholm Professional Service Award, which is presented by the National Athletic Trainers' Association's Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee.

He put on a dark pinstriped suit - no tie - and picked up the award at the association's convention in St. Louis two weeks ago.

"I didn't know what to think," he said. "Those are emotionally uncharted waters for me.

"I'm not used to being the center of attention.

"I'm used to being in the center, doing things."

You'd miss Ben if you didn't know where to look. But when players return to campus years after graduation, they bring their children to meet Ben.

For longer than I've been alive, he's been a calming force for Pima athletes and a uniting force for the coaches whose schedules he must work around.

In the name of self-preservation, he says, he's "physically and emotionally efficient."

After former athletic director Larry Toledo told Ben about the Tao Te Ching's poem about the "Quiet Leader," someone made Ben a poster. It sits in the gymnasium, and another, smaller, version in Ben's home.

In a world of Kardashians and TMZ and Twitter, people want to believe they're the center of the universe.

Not Ben.

"You can get the job done without drawing attention or getting all worked up," he said.

When he smiles contently, you believe he has everything figured out.

He's a bodhisattva with ice bags.

"We talk life philosophy all the time - he's my go-to guy," Pima athletic director Edgar Soto said. "Some of the best wisdom I've ever gotten is from Ben Carbajal.

"A lot of his attitudes on life are at another level."

Ben and Soto both had fathers who worked in mines, and can appreciate consistency.

The AD still remembers his dad treating every workday like it was his last, or going on strike and wondering if he'd ever get another paycheck.

One of seven children, Ben was raised by his mother in Guanajuato, Mexico, while his father found work in the United States as a bracero.

In their adobe home, the family had neither running water nor electricity. They ate corn they planted, and Ben's dad sent money home as an agricultural worker.

The family moved to the United States when Ben's dad got a job in the Bagdad copper mine west of Prescott. The family, kids and all, still picked crops in the summer.

"Coming from that environment, I don't think, here, that people appreciate what they have," Ben said. "It becomes an entitlement mentality."

So when Ben landed the Pima job in August 1979 and realized how much he enjoyed it, there was never any reason to look elsewhere.

He was good at it, too.

If you believe the Malcolm Gladwell-popularized "10,000-Hour Rule," then Ben, by working 60 hour weeks, has become an expert at his job six times over.

He's a member Arizona Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame and has protégés down Interstate 19 - from Nogales to Sahuarita to the new Walden Grove High School - and some in the pro ranks.

"I have the league record in lowest-blister-per-ankle-taping average," he joked.

He doesn't know when he'll retire.

When you're this much at peace, what's the rush?

"This is pretty ridiculous," he said, "but If I died tonight, I'd be happy with my life."

Contact Patrick Finley at 573-4145 or pfinley@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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