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Lakeview's Ralston Cash thriving despite life's hardships
Lakeview Academy pitcher Ralston Cash with his grandparents Sue Cash, front left, and Ralph Cash, front right and his sister Megan and Brother Tony. Ralston is holding a picture of his mother and himself when he was three years old. - photo by Tom Reed
Lakeview Academy senior Ralston Cash is at peace with the fact that everything in his life has happened for a reason.

Divine intervention is the reason that Cash, a highly-touted Major League Baseball prospect as a pitcher, believes he was spared from being present in the single-car accident that claimed the life of his mother, Angie Cash, on a wet road in Habersham County on June 25, 1995.

Ralston, just 3 1/2 at the time of his mother’s death, would have been in the car with his mom, had it not been for a last second change of plans on her part.

“I questioned growing up why my mother had to be taken,” Cash said. “But I believe that God was looking after me that day.”

Then there’s the wreck Nov. 24, 2008, when Cash’s 2001 Nissan Frontier left the highway near Arcade, in Jackson County, hit four trees head-on was totaled. His truck left the road after Cash cut his hand on a knife that unexpectedly opened in his pocket.

Law enforcement agents who arrived at the scene were amazed to see that he emerged from such a violent crash with only a black-eye and a deep seat belt imprint across his chest.

“One cop said it’s the worst wreck he’s ever seen where someone came out of it alive,” Cash added. “I’m lucky that I didn’t die that day, because I know that I wouldn’t have gone to heaven.

“At that time in my life, I was living for Ralston and not for the Lord.”

Everything in Cash’s life started to register when he attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp during Christmas break in 2009 with Lions assistant baseball coach John Simpson. He heard a testimonial that led him to re-dedicate his life to Christ. He decided then and there that his abilities as a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher would serve as the platform for his faith.

“My life has been great since I came home from that FCA camp,” Cash said. “I want to take my blessings and do something with it.”

And after a couple great high school seasons under his belt, there’s the baseball future and MLB scouts that are following his every step during his final season of high school.

These scouts are the ones that hold the ticket for Ralston being able to take his game straight from high school to the pros. Of course, he’s not going to be devastated if he has to go to college first. He’s leaving it all to the man upstairs to decide.

Cash, The Times’ 2009 Area Baseball Player of the Year, is projected to be a high-round draft pick in the upcoming MLB selection in June. Lakeview Academy coach Deuce Roark says that Ralston could get picked anywhere from the second to sixth round, depending largely on how he performs on the mound this season.

According to Roark, every time Cash takes the mound this season, he’ll have as many as 10-20 radar guns tracking his every pitch, which have been clocked as high as the low 90s. Add to that, Ralston has a frame of about 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, which also has scouts salivating.

“I’ve been coaching in this area for 17 years, and he’s without a doubt one of the Top 5 I’ve seen in terms of talent,” Roark said.

“And he has such a positive outlook on life that has allowed him to grow in his faith.”

“Ralston is a prime example that you can go through hardship in life, but it is your choice whether you let it bring you down or not,” said his 21-year old sister Megan Emig.

The Accident

Ralston’s life changed that day his mother’s was taken on her way to a cookout with friends.

The emotions from that accident are still fresh with Angie’s father, Ralph Cash, who recalls that the young boy would have been in the car, had he not been taken to a babysitter just before the wreck happened.

The fatal accident took place as Angie went around a slight curve along GA Highway 105 in Habersham County. Her car hydroplaned, struck a tree on the side on the road and she was ejected from the vehicle.

When Ralph and Sue first found out about their daughter’s wreck from a friend, they were not informed that it was anything serious. They assumed from the tone of their friend’s voice that it may have simply been a fender bender.

However, when they reached the scene and saw the amount of law enforcement present, they knew it was very serious.

“When we pulled up and saw both sides of the road lined with cars, we knew it was really bad,” said Sue, fighting back tears.
Upon arrival, Ralph and Sue got the devastating news that their daughter — a single-mother to Ralston — was deceased.

They assumed, not yet knowing he’d been taken to Angie’s friends’, that Ralston was in the car too and also a victim.

The authorities started a recovery effort for Ralston, thinking he might be under the car. The Habersham County Deputy Sheriff and a crew of men at the scene went about flipping the vehicle and searched the area for the young boy.

When they couldn’t find Ralston at the accident scene, Ralph and Sue immediately called their friends, J.L. and Betty Browner, to see if maybe he had been left there by Angie before arriving at her destination.

Thankfully, he had been.

Since he was so young at the time, he didn’t understand the magnitude of the crash. All he could grasp was that his mother wasn’t coming home.

“God touched his head the day his mother died,” Sue said. “We were just so grateful that he was still alive.”

Blended family

After Ralston’s mother tragically passed away, Ralph and Sue didn’t think twice about bringing the little boy in to live in their house and raise him with their other two children Tony (now 24) and Megan (21).

In fact, up until he was 18 months old, he had already lived in their home with his mother. After Angie’s death, they went about taking legal custody and officially becoming his parents.

Sue remember’s shortly after Ralston came to live in their home, he asked if it was alright to call her his mother.

“He said, ‘Now I got a mommy in Heaven, and a mommy here on Earth,’” Sue said.

“I saw it as I had two moms and I finally had a father to live with,” Ralston said.

He’s also got a brother and sister too. Even though Tony and Megan are biologically an uncle and aunt, they dropped those labels as soon as he joined the family.

“It’s interesting, I’d asked my mom for a little brother and then Ralston came into our family,” said Tony, a 2004 graduate of Lakeview Academy. “For 15 years now, I’ve called him my brother, introduce him to people as my brother, so I don’t think of him as anything but my brother.”

Ralston has plenty of photographs to remember his mother by. In most of them he’s sitting in her lap.

His family also hangs on proudly to a framed copy of a poem he wrote in the eighth grade, talking about how much he missed his mother. At the top, they inserted a picture of the mother and son together — an inseparable pair when she was living.

Ralston naturally misses having his mother in his life, but knows that his new family has given him everything he could ever ask for.

“Our family has grown closer and the turning point was when my sister, Ralston’s mom, died,” Tony said.

And then came baseball

From an early age, it was clear that Ralston had a knack for baseball. Sue’s earliest memory involving baseball was one night when Ralston took out a plastic whiffle ball and bat, placed the ball on a green glass jar, and smacked it across the room.

The Cash’s enrolled their son in youth baseball in Habersham County recreation leagues, but it was clear that the level of play wasn’t comparable to Ralston’s talent level.

The next step was travel baseball, which he’s kept up with from then to now.

Since he was young, he’s bounced around from travel programs in Winder-Barrow, Buford, Banks County, the upstate of South Carolina and most recently with the highly selective East Cobb Astros.

When Ralston was 7, Ralph signed him up for private lessons with Wade Holland in Demorest, who was then a graduate assistant at Piedmont College. It was immediately clear to Holland that Ralston had superior arm strength compared to the other boys his age.

By the time he was 12, the hitting came along too as Ralston led his travel team in Gwinnett County with 29 home runs in a single spring season.

Holland still works with Ralston to this day, noting that Cash spends five days a week in the weight room trying to be as physically prepared for whatever the next level may bring.

“The biggest thing that sticks out about Ralston is his work ethic,” Holland said. “He has sacrificed and put in the work to get where he is today.”

By the time Ralston was 15, he was getting his first invitations to baseball showcases, which for players that age are used primarily for college scouts to look at the up-and-coming talent.

Ralph could tell that Ralston didn’t mind the pressure.

At his first showcase at Piedmont College, when he just getting into high school at Lakeview, he was on the phone texting his father from the dugout, which showed he wasn’t going to get too worked up by a pressure situation.

At 15, the East Cobb coaches asked Ralston to take up the role of pitcher for the team and be ready to go every fifth day on the mound. His family left the decision to him whether he wanted to get locked into being a pitcher, which was a role Ralston accepted with open arms.

The Cash family started to understand what others thought of Ralston’s talent when he was playing with the East Cobb travel program between his sophomore and junior years at Lakeview. Sue remembers getting approached by one of his coaches with a very direct statement.

“He said that Ralston will be able to play at any Division I school that he wants in college,” she said. “Before that, we’d never thought something like that was possible.”

Knocking on the door

Ralston’s potential has carried him far beyond being looked at as a college prospect. He started getting in-home visits from
Major League scouts during the fall. The first visit was from a representative of the Boston Red Sox. Since then, 11 team scouts have made the drive to Cornelia for a visit with the Cash family.

He’s also done three throwing sessions for scouts.

“I think Ralston was a little excited by the visit from that first scout, but he didn’t say too much about it,” Sue said.

The Cash family has learned from experience that these house calls by scouts are not only to talk about baseball, but to also evaluate the environment that a player has been nurtured in to see if they are worth the financial investment of a potential
high-dollar contract.

Ralston has already seen that the scouts are going to converge behind the backstop every time he toes the rubber this season. His first appearance this season, at North Hall two weeks ago, brought out more than a dozen scouts, despite subfreezing temperatures.

He seems to be taking all the attention in stride.

“I have to remember that the scouts are there to see me,” Ralston said. “I’m not there to see them.

“Dealing with the pro baseball scouts is my first test to stay humble since I came back from the FCA Camp.”

This family already had some experience with what it is like to have a relative go through the draft process. Ralston’s cousin, Ethan Martin, was a first-round pick out of Stephens County High by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008.

Mending fences

Ralston wasn’t expecting a life changing experience when he agreed to go along to the FCA Camp during his break for Christmas in 2009. He didn’t think that one testimonial by a stranger would make have such a profound impact on his faith.

And he certainly never imagined that he would be leading confessional groups with more than 20 people at a time during this retreat.

Ralston says his wreck in 2008 was his real wake-up call. That was a moment when he says living selfishly and disobeying his parents almost took his life.

“That wreck brought back too many memories of how Ralston’s mother died,” Megan said. “It was a sign that he needed to make better decisions.”

He decided the new Ralston was going to live a life that would make his late mother proud.

“I changed my life and started living for the Lord,” Cash said. “That’s when I made the decision to love all.”

However, if he said he was going to love all, he knew there had to be closure to the lack of a relationship with his biological father. Ralston met his biological father, whose name he chose not to give for this story, for a two-hour meeting earlier this year to get answers to questions that were never resolved as he was growing up.

“All I wanted was to get his side of the story,” said Ralston, who said he may decide to see him again in the future.

Before that meeting with his biological father, Ralston became aware of a half-brother, on his biological father’s side, that he never knew prior to a chance introduction by an acquaintance in a fast food restaurant.

Still, Ralston doesn’t want to re-arrange family titles from the way they have been for 15 years now. Ralph, Sue, Tony and
Megan are the ones he considers his family.

“They are the ones that have been there for me all my life,” Ralston said.

As far as his new-found faith, Ralston knows that people expect to see him stray from his path in life and adherence to Christ. He says that just comes with the territory in our society.

“I want to use my athletic ability as a stage to share my faith — like a Tim Tebow,” Ralston said.

Up in the air

Ralston doesn’t want to tip his hand as to what he plans to do next year with baseball. Frankly, he might not even know yet for sure.

If he heads to Georgia in the fall, then he would have to wait until the end of his junior season to get drafted again.

If he signs right away to play Major League Baseball, then it means he would get the comfort of a pro contract up front, but it also means he would be shipped off to the minor leagues for a couple of years before realistically being prepared with his mechanics to pitch in the bigs.

That’s a tough decision for any 18-year old to have to make, but Ralston doesn’t seem fazed by the magnitude of making such a tough decision.

He’s just glad to still be around to have this opportunity.

“It hasn’t always been the easiest life,” Ralston said. “But I know even with all that I’ve been through, that others have it much harder.”
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