Dave Dravecky has message of hope, courage and perseverance
It took a long time, but Dave Dravecky did get over the anger and frustration from a Major League Baseball career cut short.
The left-handed pitcher’s seven-year career ended in August 1989, five days after a triumphant return from surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his pitching arm.
Since then, Dravecky, who eventually lost his arm to cancer, has come to terms with what’s happened in his life and is now traveling the country spreading his message of hope, courage and perseverance.
Dravecky, who turns 54 on Sunday, will be the guest speaker at this year’s Alpine Bank Junior College World Series banquet May 28 at Two Rivers Convention Center. The tournament begins May 29 at Suplizio Field.
“We looked to Dave Dravecky four years ago,” JUCO Chairman Jamie Hamilton said. “When I was talking to Dale Murphy last year I asked him if there was anybody he knew that would do it and let me know. That opened the door, so to speak. In the end, this is about student-athletes, promoting the game of baseball and the game of life. It’s a good message. That’s what we’re trying to do with the banquet.”
Dravecky speaks to several groups and organizations throughout the country, from corporations to Wounded Warrior programs and churches, but is looking forward to sharing his story with a bunch of baseball players aspiring to reach the pro level.
“I’ve had a privilege (to speak to athletes) on several occasions, but not near as much as this year,” Dravecky said. “It’s an interesting dynamic. I don’t try to stay in one arena. I love the diversity of the audience. I enjoy telling my story, but to go back in the arena I was in is great.
“The most important thing I can tell them is baseball is a series of adjustments from one inning and one game to the next. Life is like that as well. It’s who you are, not what you do.”
Dravecky was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1978 and made the major leagues with the San Diego Padres in 1982. He was selected to the All-Star game in 1983 and was at the peak of his career in late in 1988 when doctors discovered cancer in the deltoid muscle of his left arm.
Doctors removed half of the deltoid and told him, short of a miracle, he would never pitch again.
Ten months later, Dravecky pitched to a standing ovation at the old Candlestick Park, leading the San Francisco Giants to a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
Five days later, he took the mound again in Montreal.
This time, his arm snapped as he released a pitch. Dravecky crumbled to the ground and never pitched again.
“Ultimately, I knew baseball would not last forever,” he said. “I knew that baseball was coming to an end. The most important part, when I threw that pitch and my arm broke, I was at that point I knew God was doing something bigger in my life.
“Baseball was a platform God used to get to that point and to find significance outside the game of baseball.”
Dravecky admitted it was a long, painful process, but realized he had to go through all those things to heal emotionally, physically and spiritually.
“As Christian, going through that transition was not easy because I’m human,” he said. “The beauty through the darkness was God used people to encourage me and point me in right direction. That’s what’s been so helpful in transition. I can’t fully understand suffering, but I understand suffering a little better. At least to a degree to not just cope, but survive, live and thrive.”
In 1991, Dravecky’s left arm, shoulder and the left side of his collar bone had to be amputated to prevent the cancer from spreading and possibly taking his life.
Dravecky and his wife, Jan, live in Colorado Springs, and founded a nonprofit organization, Endurance with Jan and Dave Dravecky (http://www.endurance.org), to bring comfort and hope to people dealing with cancer through God’s word.
Dravecky hopes Endurance helps others learn to cope with what he encountered.
“I’m very comfortable in my skin now,” he said. “I like who I am. Overall, I’m very content where I’m at and who I am. It wasn’t that way in the beginning,” Dravecky said.
“It took 30 months of counseling. The last 12 months in 1993, when we moved out here to Colorado, helped me with my anger issue. I think the thing I’ve been able to walk away with is, number one, it’s not so much what you get out of life, but what you give.
“What’s helped me to understand is the incredible sacrifice God made for us, giving his only son. I’m reminded of that every day. It really changes how I live my life. All of a sudden, people really matter. We live in society of me and I, not enough us. As Rick Warren has said, life is not about you.”