Baseball fans of a more seasoned age will immediately connect Ralston Cash’s black mustache to that of Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers. Cash’s facial hair, a true handlebar, he said, is thin and rounded at the end, similar to the one sported by Fingers, who rose to fame in the early 1970s as a closer for the Oakland A’s.
“His is different, though, because he cuts his at the lip,” said Cash, who graduated from Lakeview Academy five years ago.
Cash, a hard-throwing, right-handed pitcher, is quite comfortable with his face being well known, now that he’s pitching for Double-A Tulsa in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system.
It’s become the trademark, via T-shirts and eventually coffee mugs, to raise money for The Ralston Cash Foundation.
The money raised through proceeds of the charity will go toward buying Christmas presents for children who have a parent afflicted with cancer.
Since the charity officially got off the ground earlier this month, Cash said about 280 shirts have been sold via social media, local non-profit assistance in Oklahoma and his brother Tony, who handles the business and paperwork at home in Habersham County. “If you had told me last year I would have my own charity, I wouldn’t believe it,” said Cash, who has allowed 23 hits in 28 1/3 innings out of the bullpen for the Drillers.
It’s a cause near and dear to Cash’s heart. A few years ago, he lost his grandfather Ralph Cash, the man who raised him, to cancer.
Cash, who was a second-round pick out of high school in 2010 by Los Angeles, said it was really just fate that he stumbled upon the idea of making shirts to raise money.
Sporting his hair in a bun at the time, Cash walked into a business — Boomtown Tees in Tulsa, Okla. — looking to design new shirts for workout purposes. He said they decided to put a replica of his face in white ink on solid-color shirts.
Once he posted it on Instagram, people showed interest in buying it. After selling about 50, he used the proceeds to buy Christmas presents for children of a family in Commerce who lost their mother to cancer.
And like that, an idea had wings.
“I never imagined that my face would be at the front of a charity,” said Cash, who was The Times Baseball Player of the Year in 2010.
Cash’s first priority every day is to prepare to pitch. As a reliever, he doesn’t know for sure when he’s going to come into to pitch, like a starter normally would.
Already this month, Cash appeared in three games during a four-day stretch, then went five days without touching the mound in a game. To remain on his toes each day, he said he’s stayed in top physical shape since first being called up to Double-A with the Chattanooga Lookouts late in 2014. During the offseason, the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate became the Tulsa organization.
He follows a strict diet and came in to the 2015 season at a slender 207 pounds for his 6-foot-3 frame.
Once the game is done, he said it’s back to work on branding his foundation. He calls his brother. He also reaches out to members of the Tulsa community to see about networking opportunities. Another example of getting out in the northeast Oklahoma city of nearly 400,000 residents is when he managed to secure a wine-tasting class art fundraiser with a business called Pinot’s Pallete.
He’s also secured having the image placed for sale on coffee mugs through a contact he made at a nonprofit organization.
Cash believes he’s the one who is benefitting from creating smiles on the faces of young people going through difficult circumstances.
“It just reminds me of how many beautiful things and great people there are,” said Cash.
Just like on the business end, the baseball is showing signs of progress for Cash.
Playing in Double-A is a big change for Cash, who said many of the players on both sides of the field have experience at the big-league level. Older players are constantly giving constructive criticism about how to make his pitch variety even more effective from the more veteran pitchers.
Cash remembers being fed advice from newly-acquired reliever Eric Stults — formerly with the Atlanta Braves — about keeping his cutter on the inside part of the plate for best results.
That advice came after Cash gave up a 10th-inning grand slam that bumped his ERA an entire run during Sunday’s loss against the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. Tulsa’s Jeremy Horst, who pitched 60 games in 2012 and 2013 with the Philadelphia Phillies, gave the same feedback to Cash, who is 0-3 with a 3.18 ERA.
“We have so many prospects with so much experience here in Tulsa,” said Cash.
Cash said things are trending in the right direction since he was called up to Double-A last season. He said he went a stretch of 33 1/3 innings with only one earned run allowed at one point. He remembers a talk with Single-A Great Lakes teammate Mark Pope last season, when they discussed how fortunate they were to have a team believe in their abilities enough to keep them on the roster.
Cash said he was at a low point in his career at the time, carrying about a 5.50 ERA and a few too many pounds.
Once his focus started to improve, so did his results.
Cash was called into the manager’s office late one evening. The Great Lakes manager told Cash he was being called up, which he thought meant Single-A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.).
“And he looked at me and said, ‘No, you’re going to Double-A.’” Cash said.
Last season, Cash logged 8 1/3 innings in Double-A with Double-A Chattanooga before the minor-league season ended.
He said it was a great chance for family and friends to see him pitch much closer to home, before they shifted to Tulsa for 2015.