That’s former major-league pitcher Dave Dravecky speaking this morning to the kids at the Hutch School in Seattle, with White Sox third baseman Mark Teahen — this year’s recipient of the Hutch Award — visible to his right (seated, wearing a suit).
I’ve covered this event 12 years in a row — every Hutch winner since David Cone in 1998 — and it’s always moving to watch the winner, sometimes accompanied by the keynote speaker (including, in past years, the likes of Johnny Bench, Tom Seaver and Ken Griffey Sr.), talk to the kids at the Hutch School. The Hutch School is a local treasure, providing education for pediatric cancer patients and school-aged family members of patients receiving treatment.
Dravecky, who is the keynote speaker at this year’s Hutch awards banquet at Safeco Field, is particularly meaningful for me because I covered his ordeal with the Giants in 1989, when he was diagnosed with cancer, underwent surgery to remove half the deltoid muscle in his pitching arm, and came back to pitch one of the most moving games I’ve ever witnessed, an eight-inning victory, 4-3, over the Reds at Candlestick Park. Many of you know the rest of the story — how Dravecky broke his weakened left arm while throwing a pitch in his next start in Montreal against the Expos. It was the last pitch he would ever throw in the major leagues. His cancer returned, and eventually Dravecky’s left arm and shoulder were amputated in 1991.
Dravecky, always a man of deep faith, has spent the ensuing years as an author (he and his wife, Jan — who accompanied him to Seattle — have written more than 10 books) and inspirational speaker, and also operates a non-profit organization called “Endurance” in Denver, Colorado, where he lives. Dravecky has a great attitude about his plight, joking to the Hutch kids that his nickname is “the one-armed bandit” and noting that when he swims “the challenge these days is not to go in circles.”
Teahen (signing autographs for the kids, above), traded from Kansas City to the White Sox in November, is the 45th recipient of the award that goes to the player “who best exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of baseball great Fred Hutchinson, both on and off the field.” Fred’s brother, Bill, founded the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center after Fred died of cancer at age 45. Bill was a Seattle surgeon. Past winners include Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Willie Stargell and Willie McCovey (not to mention Dravecky, who in 1989 didn’t get to attend the ceremony because of his own cancer treatment). Teahen is involved in a number of community efforts, including the Challenger Division of Little League baseball, which allows kids with mental and physical disabilities to play baseball.
Meanwhile, Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik will be honored this weekend by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum as winner of the 2009 Andrew “Rube” Foster American League Executive of the Year. He’ll received the award Saturday in Kansas City at the 10th annual Legacy Awards.
“This is a tremendous honor, and I will accept it on behalf of the entire Mariners organization,” said Zduriencik in a press release. “Rube Foster is a true legend in the game of baseball and to receive an award named after him and his legacy is a humbling honor. There are few things that would cause me to miss the Mariners FanFest event, but this is certainly one of them. I thank our entire baseball operations department, scouts, minor league staff and entire organization for their contributions and in receiving this award I represent all of them.”
Foster, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1981, was a player, manager and pioneer executive in the Negro League. He organized the Negro National League, the first long-standing professional league for African-American ballplayers (1920-31).