It was not public knowledge, but around the Blue Jays system, it was pretty much an open secret. The day Marcus Stroman was traded to the Mets was the beginning of the end for Head Athletic Trainer Nikki Huffman.
It’s no secret that the two became close when Huffman pulled off something just short of a loaves-and-fishes act when she helped Stro defy the odds to pitch in September and the post-season in 2015. Yes, it was that long ago.
Huffman’s departure certainly leaves a hole in the upper echelons of the High Performance Group. Sources say she was well regarded by the players (particularly the guys who were rehabbing), but Gregor Chisholm of The Star suggests that her closeness to Stroman may not have gone over well in the clubhouse.
Overshadowed by the loss of Huffman was the hiring of Vancouver native and former Team Canada player Jimmy Van Ostrand as a Mental Skills Coach, joining Head of Mental Performance Ben Freakley’s staff. Like many new hires in the Shapiro era, Van Ostrand has a strong eductational background, combining a BSc in kinesiology with an MS in Psychology. For the past three seasons, he was a mental performance coach with the Mariners. Van Ostrand is well regarded throughout the industry according to a source in the Blue Jays organization.