As pitchers and catchers for the Baltimore Orioles reported to Sarasota, Florida, for spring training they began work under the watchful eye of a new head athletic trainer, but no stranger to many of the players.
Eastern Kentucky University graduate Brian Ebel was recently chosen as the team’s head athletic trainer. Ebel follows Richie Bancells, also an EKU grad, who served 30 seasons as the head trainer for the Orioles.
Ebel is just the fourth head athletic trainer in Orioles history since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954. Two of those four have now been EKU graduates.
“I am excited and proud for the opportunity because I feel my efforts and work ethic over the years had positive results, and this is just the pinnacle of a good career,” Ebel said. “I am humbled at the confidence the Orioles organization has in me to move our athletic training department forward in changing times in healthcare. My predecessor, Richie Bancells, prepared me well for this job and he left our athletic training department in good shape.”
The 2018 season will mark Ebel’s 34th year with the Orioles organization. The Ripley County, Indiana, native began his career in 1985 at the age of 19 when he served as the head athletic trainer for the rookie league Bluefield Orioles during summer breaks from college. He then moved up to Class-A Erie (1988), and Double-A Hagerstown (1989-91), and served as the minor league medical coordinator (1992-96) before being named the Orioles assistant athletic trainer in October of 1996.
As a student at EKU, Ebel worked at different times with the men’s and women’s tennis, volleyball, football and field hockey teams. After logging his summers working with the Orioles minor league team, he spent his final two years at Eastern working primarily with the baseball program.
“My time at EKU was amazing,” said Ebel. “I made many lifelong friends there. I had two family members attend and graduate from Eastern, so it’s been a big part of my life. I attended a lot of Homecoming parades and football games way before I knew I would eventually end up there myself. I developed a good relationship with Jim Ward, the longtime EKU baseball coach.”
Ebel graduated from EKU in 1988 with a bachelor’s of science in physical education with an emphasis in athletic training and a minor in public health.
“It was kind of surreal in that I was already employed (part time at least) after my freshman year at Eastern by my current employer, the Baltimore Orioles,” Ebel said. “In my opinion, there was no better way to learn than to get out there every summer and put to practice what I was taught at Eastern. So many people at EKU were great mentors and teachers. David Green, assistant athletic trainer at the time, looked out for me my first semester of college. Dr. Bobby Barton was obviously very influential. He was president of the National Athletic Trainers Association while I was in school. His leadership in NATA always motivated me to keep learning what it’s like to be at the top of this profession. Paul Motley, my adviser, was helpful, especially as I traveled everywhere with baseball my last couple of years there. He helped me keep it together academically.”
In addition to holding a degree from Eastern, Ebel holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. He is an active member of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), and served on its executive board as the American League assistant athletic trainer representative from 1999-2005. He is certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association, and serves on Major League Baseball’s steering committee for Electronic Medical Records, MLB’s Concussion committee, and MLB’s Medical Advisory Board (2003-17).
Ebel, 51, received his 20-year service award as a Major League athletic trainer by PBATS in 2016. Following the 2011 season, PBATS named Ebel and Bancells the Major League Baseball Athletic Training Staff of the Year. In 2007, he was the athletic trainer for the American League All-Star team in San Francisco. He was also selected as the athletic trainer for the Major League Baseball All-Star Tour of Taiwan following the 2011 season.
“It should be a lesson to all students, no matter what their field of study, to get involved with summer jobs and internships,” said Ebel. “Richie Bancells informed Dr. Barton one day that there was a summer job opening in Bluefield, West Virginia. I had just finished one semester of college, and I applied and got the job.”