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(Ray) King Grinds Through Tough Times

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  • (Ray) King Grinds Through Tough Times

    Kings Grinds Through Tough Times

    Might explain some of his difficulties this season. Having had a parent die from terminal cancer and not been there most of the time (college), I can definitely relate. Keep at it, Ray!!!
    Cards Insider: King grinds through tough times
    By Joe Strauss
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    Ray King calls western Tennessee every morning and every night. On the other end of the line his father, John, tells him everything is all right and simply to do his job.

    The son listens, laughs at his father's wisecracks and takes to heart his advice. Then King hangs up, knowing everything is not all right and likely won't ever be all right again.

    Ray King is the Cardinals' workhorse lefthanded reliever going through a difficult period. John King is a former factory worker who learned in April the cancer that initially threatened his lungs had invaded his bones. Every doctor King has consulted has offered an equally blunt prognosis.

    "They told me if he's here this time next year, he's lucky," the son said.

    In April, King returned to Phoenix for several days to deal with an unexpected personal matter. Shortly afterward he learned his father's cancer had spread. The news has kept its foot on his throat since.

    "You don't know how to react to it," King said Friday afternoon. "You talk to the doctors, and you're prepared for the worst. But then you talk to him and he says, 'I've lived my life. I'm comfortable with where I've been and what I have to deal with.' He ends up helping me. I talk to him in the morning, and I talk to him at night. It's all about 'how are you doing,' and it's about baseball. It's good. I also have 25 guys in this clubhouse plus coaches and trainers. Everyone here is concerned, and that makes you feel better as a person."

    King admits this season has been a grind. He has made 59 appearances covering 95 outs. His 3.13 ERA is passable for a reliever, but the 49 hitters who have reached base against him contrast with last season, when King held opponents to a .197 average and teamed with former Cardinal Steve Kline to form the game's best lefthanded relief tandem.

    King has 14 holds, less than the club-record 31 he had last season. How King has been used this season has fluctuated along with his velocity and a slider that has occasionally flattened.

    "Somebody on the outside might say it's a decent year," King said. "But for me, it's not the year I'm accustomed to. It's gotten better, but I've got to keep grinding."

    Father and son have discussed it all.

    "He critiques me," said King, recalling a jagged Thursday night performance against the San Francisco Giants. "He'll tell me, 'That was a pretty good pitch, but in that situation you've got to get the ball down.' And you start laughing. My mom and dad listen and watch every game. He's still a Cubs fan, so that's kind of rough. I just tell him I'll be playing in October, so he'll have to get his Cardinals cap out."

    Ray and an older sister believed their father, a former smoker, had dodged his lung cancer after a series of chemotherapy and radiation ended early this year. A month later, however, a follow-up exam discovered spots on John's bones. "Once it gets to that stage, there's not a whole lot you can do," King said.

    The elder King takes medication that alleviates pain but leaves him exhausted. There are times when fatigue cuts the conversations short and others when John takes oxygen through tubes.

    "Each week it's something different; that's the hard part," King said. "He's in a lot of pain. It's hard to see someone suffer like that. You don't want them to leave. But you'd rather they be in a better place than being in pain all the time. Once it gets there, there's no cure for that."

    The Cardinals' player representative, King last year rivaled Kline as class clown. After the All-Star break, King bought a mountain bike as he heeded suggestions to shed a few pounds. But the frivolity is toned down from last year. Though his father tells him to go about his job, their nightly calls are part of the schedule.

    "He's here with us now," King said. "But it's a sickness where eventually the time is going to come. I'm trying to deal with it and let him know how much I appreciate him before it's too late."

    John King, 58, usually worked the second shift making car mufflers before retiring. There were times when his job prevented the father from watching his son's high school successes. Eventually, King's parents moved to Chicago, but last month Ray bought a house for them east of Memphis to be around family.

    References to clubhouse chemistry are typically cliche, piffle used to casually explain a team's good season. There is truth to it here, King insists.

    Bullpen coach Marty Mason, whose daughter underwent cancer surgery earlier this season, has especially helped King. "He doesn't get a lot of credit where credit is due," said King, referring to the low-key staff member who prefers to let pitching coach Dave Duncan speak publicly about arm-related matters. "He's part of the team, and nobody outside it recognizes what he does. He knows what buttons to push to get me going. He's been here for me from Day One.

    "We've got people here who care about each other. No matter what happens, we deal with things together."

    On Thursday, King and a number of teammates presented Mason, a hard-core biker, with a new Harley-Davidson.

    Indeed, if King's personal season has been a struggle, the team's has been his salve.

    "It's so much easier when you're in a situation where you're winning," King said. "If you're winning - no matter what the sport - you can go along for the ride. If we were losing, I think this would be a miserable season. But we're in a great situation with a great group of guys. I haven't had a terrible season where you have to do something, but it's been a roller coaster."

    King, perhaps the most glib member of the Cardinals' clubhouse, paused for a second. "My dad was talking about being mentally prepared to doing it, and it's great to hear," he said. "My dad tells me every day, 'I'm OK.' It makes you feel better when he's like that."

    jj twiggs - A great family restaurant

    Dear God, KBF here. I'd just like to say thanks, once again, for allowing Dusty Baker and I to live during the same time period. Every time I think he's given me his last gift -- overpitching Prior in the playoffs, getting cocky in Game 6 vs. the Angels, blowing another game for the Cubs -- he does something stupid like pitching to Albert Pujols. Thy will be done, baby!!!!!

  • #2
    Damn, that sucks about his dad.

    I couldn't imagine having that on my mind.
    RIP Chris Jones 1971-2009
    You'll never be forgotten.