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Hawk's Eye View: Aldo Plata ’03

Aldo Plata '03 is the current Duke baseball athletic trainer.

March 16, 2023 | Sarah Fetters

The sounds of spring have returned to Wilmington. The bat's ping, the ball's pop into the glove and the crowd's roar are back.

As fans file into Brooks Field and await the first pitch, they may spend those few minutes catching up with friends, watching the pitchers warm up or plotting what inning to visit the concession stand.

For one former Seahawk, however, his pregame is cycling through scenarios and questions. What if an injury occurs? Is all the emergency equipment where it needs to be? What's my first move if I see a player get injured?

Duke baseball athletic trainer Aldo Plata ’03 has a unique perspective on America's pastime.

"You support the kids you work with, so during a game, I enjoy the game," Plata said. "I try to pay attention to every play and everything that goes on. Knowing the mechanism of injury and how things happened can be very helpful."

Aldo Plata '03 is the current Duke baseball athletic trainer.

"There's a sense of pride because that's your alma mater. That's where you're from."
-Aldo Plata ’03

For Plata, who worked eight years at UNCW, spends time with Team USA baseball and has been part of two Blue Devil squads that came within one game of the Men's College World Series, his Seahawk experience is his professional foundation.

And it nearly didn't happen.

When Plata started as a student at UNCW, he had a community college degree, coaching experience in youth and high school baseball and involvement as an emergency medical technician. He was thinking he'd teach at a high school and continue coaching upon graduation. Plata reached out to former Seahawk men's basketball coach Jerry Wainwright, who made the call that changed Plata's course.

"We met and chatted for a little bit," Plata said of the conversation with Wainwright. "He said, 'So you're an EMT and you like sports.' I said, 'Yes, sir. I love them both.'

"Then Coach Wainwright said, 'Let me introduce you to Tom Lemley. He's the Director of Sports Medicine.' I still remember Tom coming into the office, running down from the training room, and Coach Wainwright saying I needed to go into athletic training. I took the Intro to Athletic Training class that fall and haven't looked back."

Plata received his athletic training degree and left UNCW to obtain his master's degree from East Tennessee State. He then quickly returned following graduate school and worked with Seahawk baseball.

"At that point, UNCW just had an athletic training undergraduate curriculum, so I was a preceptor for the program," Plata said. "That experience was very rewarding because I loved the university. I'm very, very grateful. There's a great sense of pride to be able to be associated with being a full-time employee at UNCW."

A second stint as a Seahawk turned out to be a professional springboard. Plata, a Clocktower Society member as a donor for three or more consecutive years, likes to return the favor to Seahawk baseball, primarily through the baseball scholarship fund.

"Baseball has given so much to my career," Plata said. "Working baseball at UNCW allowed me to have the opportunity to work with USA Baseball, which allowed me the opportunity to travel with two gold-medal winning teams, which allowed me the opportunity to come to Duke. That's why I give back to the baseball program. I want to pay it forward."

Aldo Plata '03 with his gold medal from USA Baseball.

Plata served as the athletic trainer for the USA Baseball 18U National Team at the 2011 Confederation of Pan American Baseball (COPABE) 18U/AAA Pan American Championships in Colombia and the 2018 COPABE Pan American Championship in Panama. Recently, he has worked with some of the country's best young baseball talent at Major League Baseball's Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League and the 2022 MLB Combine. Held at USA Baseball's National Training Complex in Cary, N.C., the PDP League gathers around 100 top high school baseball players. It is the primary tryout for the USA Baseball 18U National Team.

Despite the gold medals, Duke's success and being away from UNCW for nearly 10 years, Plata remains tightly stitched to the Seahawk community.

"UNCW is like no other because of the people," said Plata, a married father of two. "I can show up in the athletic department and people still greet us like family. I say us because it's my whole family. We're still greeted with open arms. The people, for me, are what made it so difficult to leave nine years ago."

And yes, he still roots for the Seahawks.

"UNCW holds a special place in my heart and my family's heart," Plata said. "Even my kids pull for UNCW. It's great to see them do so well. There's a sense of pride because that's your alma mater. That's where you're from."

With the Seahawks capturing their first Colonial Athletic Association series of the spring, Plata has high hopes for this year's club. While UNCW and Duke do not face each other in the regular season, it's safe to say at least one Blue Devil will keep a close watch on the Seahawks.