Walking Away Having Done My Best
By: Magie Lacambra, MEd, ATC, Gatorade Team Sports Manager
When the Baltimore Orioles began their Spring Training in Sarasota last month, they were minus one key member—Richie Bancells.
Bancells, the Orioles head athletic trainer for the past 30 years, and one of the club’s longest-tenured employees with 41 years of service, retired this past offseason. “When you go into a career, you don’t think about the end point, it’s just too early. Before you know it though, the years tick off and you are at this point,” Bancells said. Serving as only the third head athletic trainer in the club’s history, Bancells always kept each player’s well-being as the main focus of his job. “You have to make the player understand that he is not inventory. You have to gain his trust and respect. He has to know that you care for him and have his best interest at heart,” Bancells said. “The most serious injury I deal with is the one in front of me at the time because it is serious to the player.”
A strong work ethic, dedication and a selfless mentality are key factors to Bancells’ longevity in MLB. “I always just thought it was doing your job, whether it was with the Orioles or PBATS, you just do your best every day,” Bancells said. Despite his tenure as head athletic trainer, Bancells never allowed himself to feel comfortable in his role. “The minute you are comfortable and content is when it will start going downhill for you,” Bancells said.
One thing that weighed on Bancells’ decision to retire was leaving PBATS. “Being disconnected from PBATS when I retire was more important to me than anything,” Bancells said. As a charter member and former president of PBATS, Bancells takes great pride in the growth of the organization, helping take it from seclusion to being an integral component of Major League Baseball. The mission of PBATS is to serve as an educational resource for major league and minor league athletic trainers. “PBATS is a motivating factor to keep you engaged, learning and working at your best. It helps you go into your training room better prepared with better weaponry. It becomes not so much a job, but a profession,” Bancells said.
As any athletic trainer knows, days on the job can be long and stressful. The baseball season is not only lengthy but includes many multi-day road trips. Despite these demands, Bancells managed to have a good work-life balance. “One of the nicest things I ever heard was from my son, Christopher. He never felt that dad ever neglected him. He always felt that dad was dad,” shares Bancells.
Respect from Orioles players and the PBATS membership became clear to Bancells the day he announced his retirement. “I was absolutely overwhelmed by the phone calls and emails that I got from current and former players just saying thank you and congratulations. I got more phone calls from players and athletic trainers than I did anyone else, and that really made me feel good,” Bancells said.
Bancells was one of seven people named by Cal Ripken Jr. in his Hall of Fame induction speech. “It still chokes me up. He said that I was a friend that would listen and that he could trust, which meant the world to me,” Bancells said. This is a testament not only to the great athletic trainer Bancells is, but most importantly, the outstanding person that he is.
Bancells can leave the game knowing that players will remember him as a good person who did his best every day to help them, and as someone they could trust.
With the support of his family, Bancells is walking away from the game because the time is right. “My kids and their spouses were ready for us to spend more time with them and their kids,” Bancells said. “My eight grandkids are my new team,” states Bancells.
Bancells isn’t sure what he will do next, but he knows what he will not do. “I won’t scramble for the phone like it is a fumble on the one yard line worrying about who is trying to get ahold of me,” Bancells said. “Carol and I want to sit back for a year, take a deep breath and not rush into anything.”