LANCASTER -- Behind nearly every great player in this baseball league, stands a great woman.
"For me? My biggest challenge is the bathroom," said Mia Del Hierro with a laugh.
Finding a bathroom can be an issue when you're a woman working in a man's world, like Del Hierro is.
She is the head athletic trainer for the Lancaster Barnstormers professional baseball club. Each day, she prevents, examines and treats the pains, sprains and strains that come from playing a 140-game season.
"We still get the same education (as male athletic trainers)," she said. "We attack things the same way. It's still human anatomy."
In the Atlantic League, though, it is different.
The Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) believes there are two female head athletic trainers working among the nearly 250 Major League Baseball-affiliated minor league clubs spread throughout the United States and Canada.
Yet in the independent Atlantic League, which is not affiliated with MLB, six of the eight franchises -- or 75% -- have women in the dugouts, working as head athletic trainers.
It's a percentage likely never seen before in professional baseball.
In addition to Del Hierro, the other women are: Jessica Jewell (Southern Maryland Blue Crabs); Katie Reynolds (Somerset Patriots); Brandie Peterson (York Revolution); Ericka Ventura (Bridgeport Bluefish) and Dorothy "Dottie" Pitchford (Long Island Ducks).
Pitchford was the first to arrive in the league nine years ago.
"For me, she's the best trainer I've ever had," said Ray Navarette, an all-star infielder for Long Island. "I wouldn't trade her for the world."
Other players on the Ducks would likely agree.
Pitchford was thrilled to join the Ducks after she says she was turned down for jobs by major league organizations. "The resistance is coming from baseball," she said recently. "I'm not bad-mouthing them or anything; but that's where it's coming from."
The Atlantic League has been the perfect place for her.
"I'm more in charge, I don't have to listen to the higher-ups," said Pitchford, who has treated former major league all-stars and an ex-MVP during her tenure with the Ducks. "Everyone is treated the same (here)."
So why are so many women working in the Atlantic League?
While independent baseball is considered less prestigious than major league-affiliated leagues, it is often filled with independent thinkers; people who are not afraid to hire the best candidates for jobs, whether they are men or women.
"And that's just another beautiful thing about the Atlantic League and free agent minor league baseball," said Gary Gaetti, the manager of the Sugar Land Skeeters. "That these kinds of decisions; and the things that would be really big deals are not."
That's not to say there aren't challenges.
Bathrooms are an obvious one. Training tables are often next to where players undress.
"There's the stereotype and the worry, 'Is she here to just hook up with the players?'" said Peterson, who is in her first season with York, the two-time defending league champions. "It's difficult because you have that.
"I think a lot of people have that concern right off the bat."
But show the players respect and they'll give it right back, according to these ladies.
In fact, Del Hierro's manager lays down the law immediately.
"I tell my players, every year before the season -- she's like my daughter, so watch your step," said Barnstormers manager Butch Hobson, who insists Del Hierro is the best athletic trainer he's worked with in the minor leagues.
PBATS, an educational organization, has two female members working for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Major League Baseball; including head athletic trainer Sue Falsone, the first female to hold that type of head position in any of the four major sports.
"PBATS encourages all people, regardless of sexual orientation, to compete for employment in the highly competitive field of professional baseball," said Neil Romano, PBATS Senior Advisor in a statement. "We hope that the diverse nature of PBATS membership will serve as an encouragement to all those who wish to pursue that path."
Joe Klein, the executive director of the Atlantic League, says the league never made it a point to hire women as trainers, however.
It just happened. "I commend the teams for doing it," he said.
Overlooked by Major League Baseball, these women are now in a league of their own.
Del Hierro has no plans on leaving, either.
She and others hope the majors aren't just noticing, but also hiring.
"My number one question is," says Del Hierro, "'What are you guys afraid of?'"