BALTIMORE -- When Orioles manager Buck Showalter first arrived in Baltimore years ago, he wasn't too thrilled when he heard that the team's training room was known as the "heartbeat" of the club. Then he met longtime athletic trainer Richie Bancells -- who retired after 41 years in the organization
BALTIMORE -- When Orioles manager Buck Showalter first arrived in Baltimore years ago, he wasn't too thrilled when he heard that the team's training room was known as the "heartbeat" of the club. Then he met longtime athletic trainer Richie Bancells -- who retired after 41 years in the organization last season -- and it all made sense.
"There was a constant there. [The players] knew what they were going to get out of him. His consistency, his knowledge," Showalter said of Bancells, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the spirited Opening Day festivities on Thursday afternoon.
"The respect that everybody's had for him and the contributions he's made here are immeasurable. It was great for me to have a real consistent sounding board. I knew that I was going to get a straight, blunt [answer]. ... It was more than just swelling and ankles and knees and whatever. It was also the read of the person. Knowing that everybody is not the same, and Richie always got that."
Bancells, never one to seek the spotlight, was hesitant when he was initially asked about helping the O's open the season with the prestigious honor. He relented halfway through Spring Training, where he was still a regular fixture around the team.
On Thursday, the Orioles Hall of Famer, who was just the third head athletic trainer in team history, trotted out to the mound without having to respond to an injury -- and in his own O's jersey.
"Richie will always be a part of us, a part of me. I came up and he taught me a lot of things. Not just about baseball, but off the field. He made me a better person," Orioles shortstop Manny Machado said. "Those are relationships that will never be forgotten.
"I think it's the best thing that the Orioles have ever done, to do something like that and show that we still love Richie, and he's special to everyone in this clubhouse and everyone in this organization."
With his family on hand and a ticket to watch the game in the Camden Yards stands for the first time, Bancells uncorked the pitch to veteran outfielder Adam Jones to signify another start of the Orioles baseball season. For Bancells -- who witnessed history with Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,131st game, the O's first postseason run in 15 years and so many moments in between -- this one will include a hot dog and a drink to go with the game.
"Right now, it feels like a tremendous honor," Bancells said. "It's one of those things I've been blessed to work in a job where I really thoroughly enjoyed coming every day. I don't know that everybody can say that. Today is a big honor to culminate that, I guess."
Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.