RENO -- If someone asked for an example of one person who has the true heart of a champion, there arguably wouldn't be a better response than Dave Dravecky.
So it makes sense that Dravecky -- a cancer survivor who lost his left arm and had his baseball career end in the process -- would be in Reno for "Field of Dreams -- the True Heart of Champion," a Christian Men's Event.
Along with former Oakland Raiders running back Napoleon Kaufman, Dravecky helped kick off the Sierra Harvest Ministries event during a fund-raising dinner on Friday at Reno Christian Fellowship. Dravecky and Kaufman will be featured during today's event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lawlor Events Center. Admission is free.
Through his battle with cancer -- and one night in Reno -- Dravecky was brought down to the level of everyone else. Dravecky said he actually has an advantage over most high priced athletes because he has had to go through life's struggles like everyone else.
While pitching in the San Francisco Giants minor league system, Dravecky was making his comeback from cancer surgery in 1989. His second rehab start was at the Class A level in Reno.
Dravecky was on a pitch limit of 100, but needed just 93 pitches to throw a complete game victory, piling up the strikeouts in the process. Dravecky told his teammates that night if he won, he would take them all out to dinner.
He learned a valuable lesson on where he came from. Minor League players at the Class A level don't make much, so this was a chance to bring their families and friends to enjoy an extravagant dinner at the Peppermill all on Dravecky.
Dravecky said when his wife, Jan, saw the Visa bill, "she about freaked."
"They'll take advantage of it, you better believe it," said Dravecky about minor league players. "I enjoyed every moment that night with those guys. I really had a great night with those kids and jelled with them."
That's because Dravecky was once in the same position as those players. As a 21st round draft choice, Dravecky said he signed for "a cup of coffee" and was making $500 a month. "I don't want to ever forget that," he said.
After his rehab, Dravecky made a triumphant return with the Giants, winning his first start that season. But in his second start at Montreal against the Expos in August, 1989, came that gruesome scene on television in which he broke his arm, ending his career. A footnote that most people don't remember is that Dravecky was actually the winning pitcher that night as he finished the season 2-0.
"There's no question in my mind it was a blessing," said Dravecky about that fateful night. At the time, Dravecky admitted, "I wasn't thinking it was a blessing at all."
Dravecky, though, said his faith in Christ carried him through. "Through my faith with him, I have found my strength to endure the journey," he said. "It's not what you do that matters, it's who you are."
Dravecky said through his battle with cancer, he "found out who I am."
He said that and the relationships he has made is "much more important than throwing a fastball."
When asked if that night in Montreal was his low point, Dravecky said, "I would say it was one of them."
Dravecky said only a handful of people stuck by him through his trials.
"You find out who your real friends are when you go through suffering," he said.
Among those who stuck by him was his wife. Dravecky admitted through all the surgeries and struggles, he didn't make it easy for his wife.
"I gave her reason to bail out," he said. "I was a jerk. I've learned through suffering just how valuable people are."
Dravecky said there are matters that can't be contolled - like cancer -- but there are other matters that can be controlled and one is the relationships that are made.
He also said he learned that life isn't normal even though "we try very hard to make it normal."
Dravecky had his arm amputated in 1991 and he has lived without cancer since that time. He said he'll celebrate his 12th anniversary of being cancer-free on June 18.
On another note, Dravecky said he believes it "would be awesome" if the Reno area landed a Triple A franchise.