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      Spring Training

      Widener Alumni Connections Help Physical Therapy Students Gain Experience With Pro Baseball Players

      physical therapy

      Learning from the Pros

      Third-year physical therapy student Richard Brunsting, left, learns from Widener alumnus Joe Rauch, right, the minor league athletic training and rehabilitation coordinator for the Phillies.

      This year, Widener student Richard Brunsting was invited to the Philadelphia Phillies spring training in Clearwater, Florida.

      Brunsting is not a baseball player hoping to make the roster. Instead, he's there to get hands-on experience treating top-level athletes, helping them recover from injury and stave off problems in the first place.

      "You're not going to get a better experience working with athletes than being here for spring training. It's quick and fast-paced," said Brunsting, a third-year physical therapy doctoral student who, after graduation, hopes to work in the field of sports medicine with a professional team.

      Brunsting's clinical rotation in Clearwater is great practice, and is thanks in large part to Widener alumnus Joe Rauch, the minor league athletic training and rehabilitation coordinator for the Phillies.

      Rauch, who earned his doctorate in physical therapy in 2009, had such a great experience at Widener that he's driven to pay it forward to help today's students.

      "I want them to have the same opportunities I had," said Rauch, who attributes his career success, in large part, to his clinical rotations while at Widener, and to the education and mentorship of physical therapy professor Dawn Gulick, and the Pride's head athletic trainer, A.J. Duffy.

      In Clearwater, Brunsting is working with injured players, watching practices and bullpen sessions, and helping healthy players stay in the game through exercise regimens.

      "He's a rock star. The players love him," said Rauch. "He's really an extension of the team."

      joe rauch

      Joe Rauch

      Rauch, who earned his doctorate in physical therapy in 2009, gives back to Widener students like Brunsting.

      Alumnus Andy Holcombe conducted his clinical rotation in Clearwater in 2017. The experience was invaluable, he said.

      "I learned a lot about professionalism and how to deal with people," said Holcombe, a physical therapist.

      Holcombe says there's no better feeling than watching a minor league player he worked with get called up to the majors. "To watch them pitch and play, I'm rooting for them on a personal level."

      Rauch is not the only Widener physical therapy alumnus helping the next generation of students.

      James Quinlan, a 2007 graduate, serves as head athletic trainer for the Cleveland Indians. He has helped facilitate the Indians organization interviewing and bringing Widener students to their spring training in Arizona.

      Kyle Hughes conducted a clinical rotation there in 2017 ahead of his graduation. His Widener education prepared him well for the experience.

      "Practicals in class were intense, but looking back on it now I'm grateful for it. It made us fast on our feet," said Hughes.

      Both Quinlan and Rauch have stayed in contact with Widener faculty, which has helped keep the door open for current students to conduct clinical rotations with their respective baseball organizations.


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