25 years as Cincinnati Reds medical director

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BLUE ASH – Without the injured foot of a left wing in the International Hockey League, one of Major League Baseball’s top experts on Tommy John’s pitching operation might not have been spotted.

It would not have been due to a lack of effort.

Dr. Tim Kremchek graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1986. After an internship and several assistantships, he worked as a sports medicine specialist with the renowned orthopedist Dr. James Andrews works at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama. On his return to Cincinnati, he was the medical director of the Cincinnati Cyclones in their “hockey barn of chaos” in the Cincinnati Gardens.

Former NHL player Paul Lawless was in the last phase of his career but injured a foot that Kremchek had successfully repaired. The then general manager of the Reds, Jim Bowden, had a relief pitcher, Jeff Brantley, who had the same injury. Bowden went to see Kremchek, who would eventually perform the operation.

Along the way, he worked tirelessly to become the Reds team doctor.

“The guy was persistent,” Bowden recalled. “We didn’t need a new guy in the position we wanted, but he just didn’t give up. He kept talking to me. I agreed to see him. I’ll never forget: He looked me in the eye and promised to give 100% on every single game. He was a daredevil and I was impressed. ”

Kremchek describes the interview process as a three hour grilling of his knowledge of the franchise as well as his commitment to being available

Whatever he said worked. At the end of 1996, at the age of 34, he was hired by a GM of about the same age for his dream job.

“That was the beginning of the dream I’ve always had. When I grew up in Cincinnati, if I couldn’t play for the Reds, I wanted to work for the team somehow.”

Learn from the best

Kremcheck made good use of his time with Andrews in Alabama. He wanted to learn how to take care of baseball playersand Andrews was one of the best at it.He brought the Andrews stance to the Reds 24/7 365 days a year.

Andrews is now amazed at Kremchek’s successor.

“He has become remarkably successful and has done a great job not just for the Reds but for players across the league, especially when it comes to Tommy John’s elbow surgery,” said Andrews. “He has achieved what he set out to do and has become one of the best in our field.”

The walls of Kremchek’s office in Beacon Orthopedics’ sprawling Summit Woods facility in Sharonville are filled with autographed photos of Reds and numerous great league players who have benefited from his talents.

“His track record as medical director and orthopedic doctor is on par with Mike Trout, LeBron James or Tom Brady in their fields,” said Bowden, who continued to consult the doctor after leaving the Reds for the Nationals. “If there was an orthopedic surgeon wing in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Ironically, maybe, Dr. Frank Jobe, creator of Tommy John surgery, was honored but never inducted by the Baseball Hall of Fame, nor was John, who put up 14 more years after the trial.

Kremchek recently became a. called Top 10 MLB Surgeons from Bleacher Report. He has performed more than 2,500 Tommy John surgeries, including on the arms of jugs like Milwaukee’s Brent Suter (Moeller), San Diego ace Mike Clevinger. and Oakland ace Chris Bassitt. Bassitt was referred to Kremchek by local agent Joe Bick of Pro Star Management.

“Nobody cares anymore about the people they work for,” said Bick. “And he’ll do it right now.”

Far from Plant City

It’s been 25 years since Kremchek signed as medical director of the Reds. He first saw Opening Day after flying home with the team from one of their previous spring training venues, Plant City, Florida.

“When I get off the plane, I still get goose bumps thinking about it,” said Kremchek. “You get off the plane with Barry Larkin, Reggie Sanders, Kevin Mitchell and Bret Boone. It was a big deal!”

Larkin was on that team and one of the first Reds to greet him in spring practice, knowing his previous association with Moeller High School. (Kremchek’s father was Möller’s team doctor for years and has held this position ever since). His love and admiration for Moeller also resulted in a substantial donation to the school build their upcoming ballpark in Miamiville, which will bear the family name.

The days and hours can be long. A typical day can last from 5:30 a.m. to an hour after a nightly ball game at the Great American Ball Park, with double-digit surgeries in between at the Beacon’s Sharonville complex.

Red's medical director Dr.  Tim Kremchek stands in front of Reds member logos in the Beacon Orthopedics Complex in Summit Woods

“If you do it right, you don’t just show up and take care of their injuries,” said Kremchek. “It develops a personal interest in the players, the front office, the ownership. You immerse yourself in the organization.”

Former Red Sean Casey added, “Doc Kremchek was more than our doctor, he was part of the team.”

After his preparatory work before a game, he discusses the team’s health with Reds CEO Robert Castellini at the owner’s booth. Sometimes he issays, he is playfully chastised for working on an opposition who does well against the Reds, though his loyalty is never questioned.

“I don’t think there is any other team doctor in baseball who equals Tim’s love and dedication to a team,” said Castellini.

Become Doc Hollywood

A silver anniversary brings lifelong memories with it, and Kremchek has many from his time at the clubhouse. These include experiences with two members of the Baseball Hall of Fame (Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr.), a member of the Cooperstown Broadcast Wing (Marty Brennaman) and a Pro Football Hall of Famer in Deion Sanders.

The latter once challenged the young doctor to a spring training run. This came after Kremchek teased “Prime Time” during a visit to Sarasota for spring training, wondering aloud if Sanders was really that fast.

Sanders then offered him a lead-off start from second base, saying he would start at the plate and beat him home. There’s a video of the match race somewhere.

“I’m chugging around third place and hitting hard,” said Kremchek. “Suddenly this breeze goes right past me and he’s on home plate. The video shows him walking around second base with a view of home plate. I said, ‘You win. ‘”

In the end, Kremchek had and still has fun.And he’s admired enough to have been mentioned by Larkin, Junior (Griffey), and Brennaman in Cooperstown.

It was Brennaman who first referred to Kremchek as “Doc Hollywood”.

This was because Bowden did not feel like talking about injuries, but preferred to have his new medical director answer the questions. Soon the head of the Reds Public Relations, Rob Butcher, was organizing media meetings and Kremchek also had a regular spot on the Reds Radio Network’s pregame show.

“I was on TV every day,” said Kremchek. “The spotlight was hot. Marty always came by and called me Doc Hollywood.

Closing the gap

In addition to current players, Kremchek has had the privilege of working on some of the Big Red Machine players such as Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan. Well, most of his patients weren’t alive when these reds were world champions over 30 years ago.

Cincinnati was six seasons away from the 1990 World Series title when Kremchek joined the organization. Rookie pitcher Tony Santillan was not yet born and second baseman Jonathan India was only a few months old in the spring of ’97.

The Reds' medical director, Dr.  Tim Kremchek, has performed around 2,500 Tommy John procedures

“I was able to connect with Larkin, Reggie Sanders, Bret Boone, they were about my age,” said Kremchek. “These young children are coming in and you have to find a way to identify yourself.”

Kremchek speaks to Red’s Athletic Trainer Steve Baumann every day and has connections with other major clubhouses such as Wilmington’s Royals Head Athletic Trainer Nick Kenney. Kremchek gave Kenney his first job on the Cyclones hockey team.

“Doc taught me a simple lesson,” said Kenney. “Do what you do better than anyone, stay passionate, be approachable and you will be successful.”

Dr.  Tim Kremchek of Beacon Orthopedics will present the Courage Award at the Cincinnati.com Sports Awards 2017 at the Aronoff Center on Monday, May 22, 2017.  Phil Didion for The Enquirer.

In addition to co-founding Beacon Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in 1996 and expanding from one office to 14 locations and 42 doctors, Kremchek works as a team doctor for Alma Mater Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and Wilmington College. He also serves as the medical director for several high schools in the greater Cincinnati area, including Moeller, Indian Hill, Kings, Wyoming, Mount Notre Dame, Mason, Clinton-Massie, Wilmington, and Lakota West.

He remains optimistic about the Reds and plans to continue his role until it’s no longer fun.

It doesn’t seem to be that fast.