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Blue Skies. Sunshine. Mountains. Monuments. Mesas. Suplizio Field. Memorial Day Weekend. The Star-Spangled Banner. Hotdogs.
Any guesses ?
Of course, you know. It's the Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.
As always, HansMan has taken his seat on the third base line and is just in time for the Star Spangled Banner.
As always, I arrive a bit late, so he saves me a 'spot.' I scrunch in between him and a gentleman to my left. When you are sitting so close to strangers, they don't stay strangers for very long.
I asked him if this was his first time to Grand Junction, and he told me that in fact, he had been here before.. . when he himself played in the Junior College World Series in 1983, playing for McLennan of Waco, Texas. They won the championship that year.
So, I asked, "What brings you back this year?"
He told me that his brother was the coach for one of the teams playing.
(Keep that thought in mind.)
It's 9:30 a.m., and already five young men have scored during the first game of the series. While checking out the crowd, I think I recognize this gentleman...
Taking a closer look, I'm fairly sure it is...
. . . Dave Dravecky. Since I am a quite shy, introverted-type person. . .
. . . I proceeded to ask permission to take his picture. He asked me if I wanted him to smile. . . so, I snapped a couple of pics and asked this lovely lady to pose with him.
The game progressed, and an hour later...
. . . Mr. Dravecky is joined by HansMan. He was very gracious to take time to visit with Hans between a couple of innings.
. . . and after the game, he let me take one more photograph.
HansMan and I shared the conversations we had...mine with the gentleman to my left and his with Dave Dravecky sitting a couple of rows down and to the right of us.
As it turns out, Mr. Dravecky's former Minor League teammate was coaching one of the teams playing. That coach just happened to be the brother of the gentleman sitting next to me and the husband of the lady sitting next to Mr. Dravecky.
NOW, for the rest of the story...
. . . a story of HOPE, COURAGE, and PERSEVERANCE. . .
Dave Dravecky's seven-year Major League Baseball career was cut short...way too short, in August of 1989.
Mr. 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 late in 1988 when doctors discovered cancer in the deltoid muscle of his left arm...his pitching arm.
Doctors removed half of the deltoid and explained to him, short of a miracle, he would never pitch again.
Ten months later, Mr. 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. He crumbled to the ground, never to pitch 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, it 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."
In 1991, Mr. Dravecky's left arm, shoulder and the left side of his collarbone had to be amputated to prevent the cancer from spreading and possibly taking his life.
He and his wife, Jan, live in Colorado, and have founded a non-profit organization called:
"Endurance with Jan and Dave Dravecky." (This is a link to their site.)
It is a place to bring comfort and hope to people dealing with cancer through God's word.
Mr. Dravecky hopes Endurance helps others learn to cope with what he encountered.
"I'm very comfortable in my skin now. 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," he explained.
"It took 30 months of counseling. The last twelve months in 1993, when we moved 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."
Mr. Dravecky, who turned 54 this year, was the guest speaker at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series banquet, Friday night, May 28.
He speaks to groups and organizations throughout the country, from corporations to Wounded Warrior programs and churches.
"I've had the privilege to speak to athletes on several occasions. 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," he explained.
"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."
(Credit to Allen Gemaehlich of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel for the above story.)
For live coverage of the JUCO games, clink this link: Panhandle Broadcasting
For JUCO posts from previous years, clink these links:
and for fun...