The one thing that I had never done was read the Bible. That’s what Byron Ballard did to me. He said, “Dave I challenge you to read the scriptures. I challenge you to find out who this person Jesus is and what He has done for you.” He took me to Romans 3:23 where it says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Believe me I did not like hearing that. I did not like thinking that Dave Dravecky was a sinner. Yes, I made mistakes, but don’t classify them as sin. Every now and then just a little sin. One of the things that was so beautiful about Byron Ballard was that he demonstrated, he didn’t talk, he demonstrated his love for God by the way he lived his life. That’s what kept drawing me to him to ask more questions. This guy had something that I wanted. I wanted to find how in the world I could get it. He was taking me to the Word of God to show me.
As Byron presented challenged I was overwhelmed with God’s love for me and, not only His love, but His forgiveness for the sins in my life. Not only the fact that He forgives, but He forgets. There’s one thing I want to say at this point. That’s a big problem in our society. We do not know how to forgive. We don’t know how to forgive ourselves. We certainly don’t know how to forgive one another. We give lip service to forgiving but how many of us after this lip service go on holding grudges. I am just amazed as I look at my own life and I’m humbled to think that God has forgiven me.
From there it was very simple. Dave Dravecky wanted this gift. I am so grateful that God provided a way for me to respond to His call because remember, it wasn’t that we first loved Him, but He first loved us. In the process, my wife and I which was the next best thing, had the opportunity to be able to profess our faith in Jesus Christ and to confess our sin and to repent and turn away from that sin. Receiving this wonderful gift from God together. It’s just incredible. That’s when life really began for Dave and Jan Dravecky.
The next year, by the way, I did get to Hawaii and that was wonderful. I felt so sorry for my wife those six weeks in Hawaii that I was there, because it was the last six weeks of her pregnancy. I don’t think she’d mind me saying this but she was like a beached whale when we went to the beach. She’d lay there in front of those waves and those waves would just hit her belly and to this day I think that’s the reason my son loves to swim. It was there that my daughter was born and two days later I got a phone call to the big leagues. It was an incredible week for us.
1983, just a year later, I’m in an all star game. What in the world was I doing there. So many great players were in that game. I thought to myself, “What am I doing with these guys. I don’t belong here.” I was so grateful for the fact that I had an opportunity. It truly was a privilege and an honor to be part of that all star game, not only that, but to be able to pitch and to strike out George Bretton. I’ll never forget that.
From there in 1984 I was in the world series. It’s incredible when I think back on my career the things that I had the privilege of being a part of . The taco Padres did not belong in the World Series that year. The Chicago Cubs were supposed to be there, at least that’s what the press said, and you know the press knows everything. There I was in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. What an incredible experience. Then three years later I’m traded from a last place team to a first place team and go to the San Francisco Giants.
That fall in September and October of 1987 I pitched the two best games of my entire career. I threw a two hit shut out and we beat the St. Louis Cardinals five to nothing. A couple of days later in game six I was defeated one to nothing against the Cardinals and pitched an even better game that game than I did in game two and we won. I was riding high at the end of that year thinking that 1988 was going to be Dave Dravecky’s year. No question about it I was going to win twenty games. My plan was for twenty games. God’s plan was for cancer.
In 1988 in October I had surgery to remove fifty percent of my deltoid muscle and a tumor that had developed in my left arm, halfway between the shoulder and the elbow. The doctor said, “Outside of a miracle you will never pitch again.” On August 10, 1989 I stood on the mound and threw the first pitch of ninety three pitches. I am overwhelmed when I think about the fact that I was able to stand on that mound. Before that deltoid muscle was taken I threw eighty-eight to ninety miles an hour. In that game I was clocked at eighty-eight to ninety miles an hour. Half of my deltoid muscle was gone and ninety five percent use of it was gone. I don’t care what anybody says to me. It was a miracle and that’s all that matters.
You know what’s the amazing thing? That really wasn’t the highlight. Although that probably was the most memorable moment of my life with the success of that game, the thing that was so incredible was five days later. You have to understand that five hours before the game this particular day, Bob Nepper and I are having a conversation. We were going to eat lunch and I was going to pitch that day and our favorite lunch before we pitched usually was pasta. We were looking for an Italian restaurant and as we get to this place we start talking about the beauty of God providing me to give Him glory through the comeback game.
I was so excited about the miracle of the comeback. I couldn’t help but talk about it. I was just going crazy. It was to the point where they just needed to stuff my mouth with some cloth to shut me up. Bob looked at me and said, “Dave, I hate to burst your bubble, but you know it’s not the miracle of the comeback that’s so important. It’s the miracle of salvation that occurred in your life in 1981 in Amarillo, Tx. That’s the real miracle.” When he said that I was overwhelmed. I don’t think Bob would claim to be a prophet and I don’t consider Bob a prophet but what he said to me was a very prophetic statement because five hours later I was laying on the ground with a broken arm as I threw a fastball in the sixth inning.
As they wheeled me off, I couldn’t help but think what Bob Nepper had said to me. The miracle of salvation. What was taking place was that God was developing a platform for Dave Dravecky to share the good news of Jesus Christ through baseball. But baseball would no longer be the vehicle. The vehicle of baseball was to elevate me to a position where I would have the opportunity to come to a place like this. That wasn’t my doing. That was God’s doing. When I think about that I’m overwhelmed. As I stand before you I think, “You know what? This cancer’s really been a blessing.” It’s been unbelievable.
Now I’ve gone through a lot of difficult times. I want you to know that when I say it’s been a blessing. It’s been hard arriving at that. There’s been some great struggles. I have been in the pit. The valley of life. You know there’s an important lesson in understanding that. You know there is some growth at the mountain tops but there’s very little growth on the mountain tops. Why does the farmer go into the valley and plant the crops that he plants? Because the soil is the most fertile in the valley. Why should life be any different. When we go through the valleys of life we’ve got to see that as a very rich time. That’s a process. It’s not something that happens overnight. It’s not automatic. Because both Jan and Dave Dravecky went through depression.
That was a very difficult time for us. As a matter of fact, I would like to share with you some of what took place in that. If you want to know more, go out and buy the book. You can read the rest of the story there. But what happened was all of a sudden as I was coming through my own struggles, Jan began to slide. She was trying to be everything to everyone and she just couldn’t do it anymore. I remember specifically as she was telling me that she just wasn’t feeling good and I would look at her and say, “Suck it up, honey. Pull up your boot straps. You can do it. With me and God you can move forward and everyone’s going to be fine. Don’t worry about it. Besides you look fine. You don’t look sick.” What was happening was she was crashing right before my eyes. In essence what she was doing was crying out for help and I wasn’t the one to give it to her.
The problem was my ego got in the way. My pride got in the way. How many of us men know what pride is? Does that ever get in the way? My pride got in the way of my wife being able to seek help. It got so bad that when she wanted to go out and seek help I said, “No way.” I was so angry because it was a blow to my ego that I literally took a portable phone at home and I threw it down on the floor and busted it on the tile in the kitchen. I looked at her and I said, “There make your phone call for help.” What a jerk!
I was at a Focus on the Family couples conference and Jan and I were speaking. This one lady had read the book and afterwards had come up to me and said, “Dave I just have one thing to tell you. You’re a jerk.” Then she started to smile. She said, “You know I just can’t believe you treated your wife that way.” But the reality is I did. It’s something I’m not proud of but the reason why I share it is because I think there’s a lot of men in our society that feel the same way I did because my pride was being hurt. My ego was being stricken. I didn’t like it because she wanted help from somebody else and I thought I was her all in all. I was the one who was supposed to fix her. How in the world was I supposed to fix her problems when I couldn’t fix my own?