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MOSES LAKE — If you give Dave Heaverlo a call sometime and if he happens to not pick up the phone, you can already tell the kind of personality he carries when you’re sent to voicemail.

“Hey, I’m sorry I didn’t get to the phone right now. With the NFL Combine coming up, I’m working on my 40-yard dash. So far, I have it down to about three days and six to seven hours. Anyways, leave me a brief message and I’ll get back to you as quick as I can. What a great country, thanks for calling.”

Sitting back and appreciating life is the type of person Heaverlo is. The Ellensburg native was a standout Central Washington University baseball player who later enjoyed a seven-year career in Major League Baseball, earning the reputation of being a jokester, but also carrying an earnest attitude on the pitching mound.

Heaverlo, 68, wasn’t afraid to stand up to management and ownership during his career, but at the same time could enjoy himself. Often, he would be caught sporting Groucho glasses in the dugout, pulling pranks, and during one of the worst Oakland Athletics seasons in franchise history in 1979, Heaverlo caught his arm in the Oakland Coliseum elevator and exclaimed, “My God, there goes the pennant.”

“I was able to maintain my sense of humor and sometimes it rubbed people the wrong way,” he said. “When you’re a bad ball club and nobody is having any fun, sure, why not try to make them laugh about something.”

MOSES LAKE TO CWU BASEBALL

Heaverlo was born in Ellensburg and grew up in Thorp until he later moved with his family to Moses Lake. He excelled as a pitcher at Moses Lake High School and was in the process of finding a college. He gained interest from Washington State University, Gonzaga University, Big Bend Community College and Yakima College.

Gary Frederick, head coach of CWU baseball at the time, was on a recruiting trip back from Spokane and somebody mentioned to him that there was a prospect named Dave Heaverlo from Moses Lake that didn’t throw that hard, but pitched well and had a winning mindset. Funny thing was, Frederick coached Heaverlo during his little league days and wondered if it was the same kid.

Sure enough, it was and he got Heaverlo to commit to play for the Wildcats.

“Being from Ellensburg, the cost of an education back then, plus the fact that they were going to the national tournament for baseball, it just seemed like a natural fit. That’s why I ended up here,” Heaverlo said.

Frederick got Heaverlo a job the summer before his freshman season and also a place to stay (Frederick’s home). Washington State’s head coach, Bobo Brayton, gave Frederick’s house a call asking for Heaverlo, not knowing he was calling Central’s coach.

Brayton was calling to coax Heaverlo with a scholarship to play in Pullman, but Heaverlo respectively declined — even without getting a scholarship to pitch at Central.

“That’s the type of person Dave is,” Frederick said. “He committed to me even though he got a scholarship offer from WSU. He felt committed to me and I’m really grateful for that because he made me a pretty damn good coach.”

Heaverlo had a sterling career with the Wildcats, going 31-8, striking out 321 batters over 302 innings and an earned run average of 1.79. He also led CWU to the NAIA World Series in 1970.

Heaverlo tossed two no-hitters against Whitman University and Eastern Washington University. In the game versus Eastern, he accidentally beamed the first guy and it had the rest of the batters back off the plate. Heaverlo then fanned 18 of them.

“As a pitcher, he was a gritty competitor,” said former teammate and current scout of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ron Hopkins. “… He threw a heavy sinking fastball that he got a lot of ground ball outs. … If somebody dug in on him, he’d knock them on their can — he was that kind of guy.

“… He was also the kind of guy that if he threw his game in a tournament and you needed him out of the pen the next day, he would come back. He’d do anything to help his team win. As a pitcher I give him high marks, even looking back, it’s been 45 years since we played together.

“I’m a scout, but I mean you look for guys that compete like him, and that’s the truth. You want to sign pitchers that compete like he competed.”

MLB CAREER

Heaverlo was drafted during his junior season by the San Diego Padres in the ninth round of the 1972 MLB Draft. But they offered him a mere $1,500 and Heaverlo presented a different proposal.

He heard what the Padres first round pick (Dave Roberts of University of Oregon) was going to cash in, which was around $85,000. So, when Heaverlo spoke to the scout, he said he would travel to Eugene and face Roberts himself.

“I told the scout I would drive to Oregon, face your No. 1 draft pick and if he can get three hits off of me in 10 at bats, I’ll sign,” Heaverlo said. “The phone went dead — never heard from him again.”

Heaverlo opted to finish his senior year and then played summer ball for the Cheney Studs. The San Francisco Giants picked up Heaverlo in the first round of the 1973 MLB January Draft-Secondary Phase and made his debut in April of 1975.

Heaverlo’s quirkiness started right from the get go, being handed the No. 60 that he wore most his career because he didn’t want to have to change the number on his glove or cleats. Heaverlo shaved his head back when having a lot of hair was in style because he couldn’t stand the Arizona heat in spring training and still clean shaves it to this day even though he can grow a “nice rug.”

He was quoted in the Oakland Tribune saying he would keep it shaved until Athletics owner Charley Finley freed the hostages (jokingly).

“That was back when the hostages were held … that ruffled some feathers,” Heaverlo said.

He spent three years with the Giants, three with the Athletics, and one with the Seattle Mariners. When he joined the A’s in 1978, it was in the midst of a complete downfall for the franchise under Finley. Once a passionate advocate for the team, as they won three consecutive World Series (1972-74), Finley sold out on them once players started demanding heftier salaries and because he was notoriously cheap, the team became inadequate.

Heaverlo to this day reminisces on April 17, 1979 when the Athletics hosted the Mariners. It was recorded to be the worst attendance for a MLB game with a mere 653 tickets sold, but only 250 showing up. Oakland went on to lose 108 games that season and 99 the year prior.

“Look at our win-loss records, I should have been doing black tar heroin,” he joked

It was an egregious two years — and it was much of the same when he signed with Seattle in 1980 under head coach Maury Wills. Heaverlo although had one of his best seasons, pitching in 60 games, going 6-3 and a respectable 3.89 ERA. But Seattle finished 59-103.

The Mariners had a caravan that traveled community to community and made its way to Ellensburg after the ’80 season. Old CWU teammate Bob Kelly was present and asked Wills, “What are you going to do with Dave Heaverlo?”

Wills responded saying he was going to move Heaverlo to long reliever and promote Mike Parrott as short reliver (closer). So, Kelly calls Heaverlo to tell him the news and a befuddled Heaverlo without hesitation, decided to call Mariners beat writer for the Seattle PI, Tracy Ringolsby, for a story without confronting Wills first.

Next day, the PI’s headline is “Heaverlo refuses to carry Perrot’s jock.” The front office was upset and Heaverlo went to spring training knowing his future with the team wouldn’t last.

“We’re in spring training, I was out in the outfield shagging fly balls, club house kid came out and told me they wanted to see me in the office,” Heaverlo said. “I knew what it was, picked up my jacket, waved goodbye to everybody and wished them luck.”

After that year with Seattle, Heaverlo’s passion slowly started to erode. He was training to prepare for the ’81 season, standing in the pouring down rain on a hill in Bellevue asking himself, “Why am I doing this?”

But he drove himself to Arizona to work out and hopeful he would sign with somebody. And that turned out to be Oakland once again, but under new ownership and second year coach Billy Martin. It was Heaverlo’s most enjoyable season with a mended team as the A’s qualified for the postseason that year.

“The most fun I ever had in pro ball because he wanted to win, and that was the beginning of ‘Billyball,’” Heaverlo said of Martin. “There’s not a greater feeling then going into a major league stadium knowing that that you have better than a 50/50 shot of winning. Billy (Martin) was going to find a way to win, it might include cheating, but that’s the 11th commandment — if it ain’t worth cheating, it ain’t worth doing.”

After the season, Heaverlo was offered to come back, but as the pitching coach with the AAA team in Tacoma. He did that for three years before moving to California for the same job with the Angels, except for the A squad.

Heaverlo posted a quality stat line in his career, winning 26 games, pitching in 356 games over 537.2 innings, tallying 26 saves and 288 strikeouts, and a 3.41 ERA.

But how hard did he throw?

“I threw as hard as Randy Johnson — it just didn’t get to the plate as fast,” he said smirking.

Looking back, Heaverlo doesn’t like to bloat on his playing days. He keeps a trophy room just to prove to people that he played, but nothing more. Heaverlo cherishes the experience and relationships he built. He remembers the first time being called in to pitch at to Yankee Stadium.

“The first time I ever pitched in Yankee Stadium, I got called in, Bob Sheppard was the PA announcer, I’m standing on the mound, walked off the back of the mound and I’m looking out at centerfield with my back to home plate. I hear Bob Sheppard go ‘Now pitching… pitching… pitching…Dave Heaverlo…Heaverlo… Heaverlo.’ And I’m thinking to myself, ‘What’s a dumb kid from Ellensburg, Washington standing on the mound in Yankee Stadium?’” he said. “It was pretty incredible when you stop to think about it.”

LIFE AFTER BASEBALL

Sports radio was Heaverlo’s next chapter, something he occupied for 30 years and loved. He started with KULE in Ephrata for four years and then got an opportunity with KBSN in Moses Lake.

He also had a coaching stint with Big Bend CC baseball for seven years while in radio still, but officially retired four years ago and now can be heard doing color commentating for CWU football with Wildcat Sports Radio Network.

“I got to point in my life where there are things I wanted to do,” Heaverlo said. “Now that I have been retired, I’ve set my alarm twice and both times were because I had to get up and catch an airplane. People say ‘What do you do when you’re retired?’ Well, any damn thing I want to do. That’s the beauty of being retired, that’s why you retire.

“I still got a commitment to Central. Dennis (Francois) has been good to me, I think the world of Jim and Katie Guadino. Shoemaker and all the coaches and players I’ve got to know, that’s what keeps me going.”

Heaverlo is a fervent supporter of CWU and its athletics. The alum donated $250,000 at the university’s inaugural Giving Tuesday campaign in 2016.

“It was a way for me to give back. Nobody owes me anything,” he said. “I didn’t grow up in the entitlement program. Everything I have is because of direct relationship or situation. Sometimes I look back and wonder, ‘What if I had gone to WSU, what had I been doing if I’d gone to Gonzaga? Would I had as much fun?’ There was nobody who enjoyed college more than I did, I’ll tell you that.”

Said Dennis Francois, Athletic Director at CWU: “Dave is truly a special person. It’s really great when you have alumni realize the opportunity that was afforded them as an 18-year old young man or woman. It gave them the break or chance to go on and do great things … he’s a Wildcat through and through.”

You won’t find a more faithful Wildcat fan that Heaverlo. But, getting through CWU as a student wasn’t easy for him. His first two years, he was pulled to the side by some teammates and was told if he wanted to help the baseball team, he had to change his approach in the classroom.

And it worked as a remedy, Heaverlo changed his major to special education and excelled in academics. He credits two teammates: John Craig and Bill Walker.

As for professors, Heaverlo was thankful for: Don Miller, Sam Rust, Glenn Madsen, Byron DeShaw and Daryl Basler.

“Hadn’t it not been for those people, I probably would have not graduated,” Heaverlo said.

Heaverlo resides in Moses Lake with his wife, Peggy Basler. He has three boys, two whom graduated from CWU (Jesse and Kyle) and the other (Jeff) had a quality career for University of Washington baseball. Jeff was a first-round pick in the 1999 MLB Draft, selected by the Mariners.

The humor from Heaverlo hasn’t left and is relishing the retired life, recently attending the Rose Bowl between UW and Ohio State University.

“I’ve enjoyed life, and I don’t mind people laughing at me. If I can make somebody smile or laugh, you know I’ve had a pretty good day,” he said. “Some people make life too serious, life is to be enjoyed, you still got to laugh. Look yourself in the mirror, like what you see and move on.”

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