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In the big leagues

Alumnus Jon Hallberg, M.D., says he is 'an educator, a referral source, an ear' for the nearly 200 athletes in the Minnesota Twins organization. (Photo courtesy of Jon Hallberg, M.D.)

His life has been bookmarked by the Minnesota Twins.

When Jon Hallberg, M.D., was born in 1965, the Twins made their first World series appearance. He was a senior in college and a fourth-year medical student, respectively, when they won the World series in 1987 and 1991.

It’s only fitting that Hallberg, a member of the Medical school Class of 1992 and now an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, today serves as the team’s club physician and its Employee Assistance Program provider.

That means he’s on call 24/7 for the nearly 200 players in the Twins organization — from the instructional league to the pros. He’s the only family physician in this role in all of Major League baseball.

“I’m an educator, a referral source, an ear,” Hallberg says.

Hallberg counsels players dealing with depression, anxiety, addiction, and other psychological conditions — like suddenly losing the ability to throw the ball from one base to another — “any and all psychosocial issues that come up that might affect their ability to play ball,” he says.

As part of his official duties with the team, Hallberg also joins the players at training camp in Fort Myers, Fla., for a week each March to give presentations on such topics as over-the-counter supplement use and proper documentation of “therapeutic use exemptions” for legit medications that might cause a positive drug test, he says. (Stimulants for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder fit into this category.)

This spring marked Hallberg’s 17th trip to training camp with the team. He stops by the Twins clubhouse once per home stand, too, to check in with the guys.

“It seems cheesy to say it, but the Twins have kind of become a family,” he says. “They treat people like family.”

And though he’s plenty busy as medical director of the Mill City Clinic and with his weekly medical segments on MPR, Hallberg says the little things about the game itself also have kept him involved with the team.

Hallberg appreciates the finely manicured fields, the generations of people who attend games together, the smells of the ballpark, and the game’s inseparable connection to radio. But what really appeals to him is the lack of a clock.

“Since I spend so much time as a physician ‘on the clock,’ seeing patients every 20 minutes or so, always running behind,” Hallberg says, “I find that the last thing I need is to be reminded of, while watching a game, how little time is left.”

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