'Cancer sucks,' former major leaguer says at TC dinner, but he's learned from it
Former Major League pitcher Dave Dravecky shared with an appreciative audience Saturday at the Historic Taft Fort the story of how he has coped with losing his pitching arm and livelihood.
Dravecky headlined the Taft College Triple Play Dinner and Auction put together by Cougar head baseball coach Vince Maiocco and the TC athletic staff.
The former San Francisco Giants pitcher, who had his left arm amputated following a horrific incident while making a comeback from cancer, received standing ovations from a sold-out crowd that also bid on sports memorabilia and merchandise and services.
Proceeds from the event go to the Cougar baseball and softball programs to supplement their budgets.
Dravecky used humor and anecdotes to trace his struggle in the aftermath of what was termed “the break heard around the world” and how his faith in God led him to a new path as an author and motivational speaker.
He vividly remembers the day in Montreal in 1989 pitching his second game after spending 10 months rehabilitating his left arm following cancer surgery.
“I wound up and threw a sinking fastball,” he recalled. “It felt like I’d been shot with a thirty-ought-six rifle. My left arm just snapped in half.”
Internet searches of Dravecky always turn up video of his horrific injury, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
The cancer he thought he had beaten had returned.
“Cancer sucks,” he said. “I don’t like what it did to me.”
But his battle with the disease had one positive impact “in the lessons I’ve learned because of it.”
With his faith and the support of his wife Jan, Dravecky focused on the things he could do after having his arm and clavicle amputated.
“I decided to at least try to do everything I wanted to do.”
He had always wanted to learn to ski and did, but even achieving that taught him more lessons about life.
Dravecky recalled a day people were watching as this one-armed man was skiing.
“I thought they were watching me, but nothing can be more deflating than seeing a one-legged guy passing you by.”
Then came the day when he heard a voice behind him saying “left, right, left” and watched a blind skier with a slide past him.
“To have that trust in someone is an amazing thing,” he said. “It was a powerful thing for me.”
Those lessons taught him that the most important thing is that your worth “is not in what you do, it’s in who you are.”
Since then he has written two books about his struggles and how faith and family restored his life and led him to develop several ministries and become a motivational speaker.
In addition to hearing Dravecky speak and enjoying a barbecued chicken and tri-tip dinner prepared by Salty’s BBQ, guests had an opportunity to bid on a variety of prizes, including front row, club level seats at a Giants game this summer.
Dravecky also gave a pep talk to TC baseball and softball players, who volunteered as servers.
Maiocco arranged the affair through contacts he has with the Giants and 49ers organizations.
Joining him in staging the event were softball coach Stefanie Walsh, athletic trainer Bruce Ferguson and Athletics Director Kanoe Bandy.