May 30, 1924 - April 12, 2017
Norman Richard Bruce passed away peacefully Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at the age of 92 while at home with his wife of 66 years.
He was born May 30, 1924 in Rockford, Illinois to John and Grace Bruce, the youngest of five children. In June of 1942 Norman graduated from Burbank High School in California and entered into the United States Army Air Corps, in which he became a Tech Sergeant within the 18th Weather Squadron. His service through 1945 saw duties in Britain, France, and Germany.
Following his honorable discharge he met the love of his life, Bettie McCormick, and they were married in July of 1950 in the Little Brown Church, North Hollywood, California. Norman’s early career saw him working in the aerospace industry for companies such as Litton Industries, Rocketdyne, and IBM. But his life’s work began as a Little League coach as his family with two sons grew up in Granada Hills, California.
During this time in 1960 Norman applied his technical skills to batting practice, devising a way to help kids to practice hitting in a way they wouldn’t fear getting hit by a hard ball. He constructed a two-wheel machine that propelled plastic balls for the kids to get repetitive optimized practice. This concept is credited as the modern invention of the two-wheel pitching machine.
In 1963 Norman moved his family to the Rogue Valley, settling in Central Point. With his batting machine a success with local kids, the idea blossomed into something he wanted more ball players to benefit from. He began building houses while perfecting his idea and applying for patents. In 1966 he began selling the first opposed two-wheel machines as Granada Pitching Machines and in 1968 it became a full-time venture.
Company recognition grew tremendously over the years with tens of thousands of machines sold to programs of all levels around the world and millions of people practicing hitting on his machines. They even became the subjects of scientific research and were the choice of Hall of Fame players as their method of practice.
Norman “retired” in 2002 when he sold the business, but remained an active problem solver, tinkerer, and man of ideas to improve life. For his work he was listed in Who’s Who in Executives and Business, called 'Grand Master of Inventors' by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, and widely considered one of the great contributors to the game of baseball — both locally and around the world. He was a longtime member of First Baptist Church and American Legion and served as a volunteer patrolman with the Central Point Police Service.
He is survived by his wife, Bettie; his sons, Paul (Kay) of Ridgefield, Washington and John (Lisa) of Medford; his grandchildren, Jeremy Bruce, Amy Pugh, Katie Bruce, Daniel Bruce, and James Bruce; and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, John, Chuck, and Frank; and his sister, Bettie.
Norman will be remembered for his kindness and service to those around him, and for his wonderful smile.
A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. Friday, April 21, 2017 at First Baptist Church in Medford after he is laid to rest at Eagle Point National Cemetery.