Drabek learned from dad's career in Majors

Drabek learned from dad's career in Majors

Drabek learned from dad's career in Majors
TORONTO -- Long before he made his Major League debut with the Toronto Blue Jays in September 2010, Kyle Drabek was quite familiar with the big leagues.

Having a father who enjoyed a 13-year career in the Majors, Drabek patrolled different stadiums and witnessed firsthand what the life of a professional ballplayer was like. His dad, Doug Drabek, made his debut with the Yankees in 1986 -- a year before he was born -- and it wasn't long after that Kyle developed the same passion for the game.

"It was great for me because I loved baseball," Drabek said about growing up in a baseball family. "My dad didn't really have to force it on me. He would let me do whatever I wanted. I just fell in love with the game when I was about three. It was always fun to go hang out with him and the other players, and be able to play catch with him whenever I wanted."

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When he wasn't frequenting Major League parks, Drabek and his brother, Justin, were getting coached by their father in summer leagues and making good use of the batting cages they had at home. A typical day for the Drabek family revolved around baseball, which allowed Kyle to constantly soak up information from his father -- a former National League Cy Young Award winner.

Kyle's friends and teammates -- like Reds outfielder Jay Bruce -- would come to his dad for advice, too. The elder Drabek instructed a lot in his free time and Kyle considered himself very fortunate to be able to get those lessons at the comfort of his own home.

"Me and my brother would throw, my dad would throw with us, and he'd also throw us batting practice -- it was fun," Drabek said. "He was the one who taught me everything I know. I've adjusted a few of the pitches, but he taught me the fastball, curveball, changeup and cutter."

To no surprise, Drabek grew up to be a successful pitcher, but it wasn't until his senior year of high school that he decided he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.

Drabek, a two-way player growing up, was a power-hitting shortstop who loved batting and playing in the field every day but felt he had a better chance to reach the big leagues as a pitcher -- a dream that started to take shape when the Phillies made him a first-round Draft pick in 2006.

It was a proud moment for his father.

"Exciting, we had people at the house," Doug said. "I guess it was kind of fun watching the anticipation from everybody. As the names got called out and stuff, that was kind of neat for me. When he heard his name, the expression of his face ... he was probably just relieved that it was over."

As Kyle began his Minor League career, Doug felt it was important to not interfere with what his son's coaches were teaching him. It's something he still believes in today, but that doesn't mean the two of them don't continue to dissect the game together.

Dad doesn't get to see as much of his son's starts as he would prefer, but he finds ways to stay connected every time he takes to the hill.

"Usually on the phone, I'll get to at least see how he's doing pitch-by-pitch," said Drabek, a pitching coach in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. "Every once in a while, I might get to see a little bit. Every start, though, I will have the phone with me to keep track of how he's doing."

The two of them will then talk after the game.

"I don't want to sit there and go over everything," Doug said. "He will kind of tell me what he struggled with that day or what was working that day. I may throw some suggestions at him. I'll tell him, 'I'm not going to talk to you as a dad, I'm going to talk to you as a pitching coach,' and 'I'm not going to tell you to do this or that because that's somebody else's job.'"

In the offseason, they occasionally throw together, but not nearly as often as they used to. Kyle is still impressed with the arsenal his father -- who will turn 50 years old in late June -- possesses and said it wasn't until recently that he took over the reins as the best pitcher in the family.

"If I had his control that would help a lot because he was able to put it wherever he wanted," Drabek said about his dad. "I'm just happy I throw harder than him. He thinks he can still bring it. We would throw in the offseason and he is still spinning stuff and throwing cutters and chageups to me. I definitely think he would love to get back out there."

Drabek's 2012 season unfortunately took a turn for the worse when an MRI revealed a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament on his pitching elbow. He was removed from his last start, on Wednesday, and will see Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Monday.

Pending the diagnosis, he could undergo a second Tommy John surgery.

"I was down, because they said they saw a little tear, and right when they said that, I flashed back to when I had it previously," said Drabek, who underwent the procedure in 2007. "[I] hated going through it. You miss a year of baseball, you miss a year of hanging out with the guys. [On Friday] it's a little different, because it doesn't feel the same way it did the first time. I still have mobility in my arm, and when I had it before, everything was pained."

As much as baseball, and the art of pitching, has been a driving force behind their relationship, it wasn't the only thing that united father and son.

The Drabek family has always been big into fishing and used to travel to a spot called Lake Cornroe, roughly 30 minutes from their house in Texas.

"We used to love to go fishing," Kyle said. "We would go out on a boat and go fishing and really just sit down and talk."

Doug remembers another aspect about those trips.

"We'd go fishing every once in a while, but him and his brother didn't have the best patience for it," Drabek joked. "It was basically, catch something fast or they would get bored."

Now, Kyle has the patience for those excursions on the water and his dad looks forward to the relaxation, which allows them both to detach from the game.

Dedication to their crafts keeps that moment brief, however, and for the times when Kyle is having a slow day catching fish, it's likely the conversation between the two will shift back to baseball.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.