The Doctor Is In
Durham Bulls Team Physician Dr. Richard Brunch
As the Durham Bulls team physician for 29 years, Dr. Richard Bruch has done more than help players heal and get them back on the field. His love of the game and his honesty have also enabled him to form lasting relationships with players and staff.
Dr. Bruch doesn’t tell a player or a manager what he wants to hear, and it is this honesty that has allowed him to form trustworthy relationships with those around him.
“I am very factual and very up front,” he said. “I will never tell a player one thing and a manager another. It’s a single opinion given. It also helps that we have enough carry over of players from one year to another. The new players quickly know from existing players that if they complain about something it is my goal to get them back on the field and keep them on the field. If I think it’s safe for them to keep going, that’s my recommendation. Players understand that if they get hurt, I will recognize it. But if they aren’t, I will let them keep playing.”
Dr. Bruch’s career with the Bulls started in 1980 when he stopped by the ballpark to ask Miles Wolff, the team owner at the time, about being the orthopedic surgeon for the team. Baseball had just returned to Durham, and Dr. Bruch wanted to be a part of the team. Wolff agreed, and a few years later Dr. Bruch became the team physician.
And while this was nearly thirty years ago, not all that much has changed.
For Dr. Bruch, the biggest change occurred in the late 1980s when Dr. Frank Jobe, a famous sports surgeon in Los Angeles, came up with an exercising program that emphasized exercising certain muscles rather than using a lot of weights. When the program began to be used routinely, the amount of injuries dropped tremendously.
However, the most important aspects of the game haven’t changed.
“It’s a lot of love,” Dr. Bruch said. “I have been associated with two great organizations- the Atlanta Braves and the Tampa Bay Rays- during this time. And I’m talking specifically about what type of athlete they hire as a person. When something needs to be done, they work extremely diligently to get the proper evaluations and treatment. Nothing is short changed. All decisions are in the direct interest of the baseball players. I have a lot of respect for the organizations and their judgments.”
Naturally the small fractures and other common injuries haven’t changed much either.
Yet perhaps the thing to remain most constant throughout these years has been Dr. Bruch’s love for the game.
“I love baseball,” he said. “I love knowing the players and their personalities and their mental toughness.”
Dr. Bruch enjoys going to more than 60 home games a season.
“It sounds like a lot of ball games to go to a year. I have a very supportive wife who comes to the ball games with me. Without that support, it wouldn’t happen. Early in my relationship with my wife of 39 years, I told her that I loved her almost as much as the Cubs. I have always been a baseball fan and really treasure the time.”
As a man whose checks used to be signed by Henry “Hank” Aaron, Dr. Bruch has been an integral part to the Durham Bulls organization for the past 30 years. Wins or losses, Dr. Bruch has been there to provide his assistance and to show his true love of the game.
Thanks to Bulls Intern Jennifer LaBrosse for this capcom story.