Before he invented a weighted belt that helps children with sensory deficits focus and concentrate better, Matt Bruback had another calling: baseball. The onetime pro player learned to love the game when it was an integral part of his military family’s life overseas.
When he was just 3, he remembers, he broke a large pane-glass window with a Wiffle ball. “My father laughed and shrugged it off,” Bruback says. “My father was a big influence and supporter of me playing.”
He was a little older when he signed up to play for real. At the time, in the late 1980s, the Air Force had stationed his father in Naples, Italy. “My brother signed up to play baseball,” Bruback says, “and since I looked up to my brother, I wanted to play as well.” So Matt, brother Mark and sister Michelle all started to play.
Bruback fondly recalls his father buying him his first glove at the Carney Park shopette, which was located in a dormant volcano West of Naples.
“It is a Spalding glove, which I still have to this day,” he says. “There are no words to express how a young child feels when he gets his first glove, as it’s so much more than just a glove; it’s a matter of being a part of something bigger than yourself, which is the true essence of teamwork.”
Baseball was an important part of the Americans’ life in Italy, Bruback says, but it was also an important part of their family. His grandfather played professional softball in the 1930s, and his skill as a pitcher helped him land jobs at different companies. On his deathbed, he told young Matt: “You’re my ball player. You’re going to make it.”
“It’s because of his kind words I never doubted I would play professional ball someday,” Bruback says. He went on to play AAA and was invited to big league spring training twice.
His grandfather got to see him play while the family was stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Every time Bruback looked in the stands, his 70-plus grandpa was grinning. Baseball tied generations of men together.
“It was obvious they got joy out of seeing others in a state of joy,” he says, “and it was this mentality which defined our relationship — loving family members willing to give their all to bring happiness into a kid’s world.”
While Matt and his brother also skateboarded in Germany, Bruback was undeniably devoted to baseball.
“I fell in love with baseball like a guy falls in love with his first car,” the pitcher says. “Baseball was freedom of expression, freedom to challenge oneself, freedom to explore this world and attempt to make sense of things. As soon as I picked up a baseball and started throwing it around, I knew baseball was going to be a big part of my life.”
The sport helped him deal with speech issues as a child, he says. He still carries its lessons of teamwork, motivation, determination, focus, concentration and even sacred geometry — the field, he suggests, recalls Masonic symbolism.
These lessons also helped him overcome his own injury paving the way to invent the Miracle Belt which helps improve the lives of children suffering with autism, ADHD, and many other sensory related disorders.
“The main thing I learned in baseball is to have confidence in yourself and not to pay attention to naysayers,” Bruback says. “So many people in life are going to tell you you’re not good enough or that you should get a real job, and early on in baseball, you learn to stay focused on the task at hand — one step at a time. We all have the ability to create happiness, and I know now real happiness comes from helping others.”