Baseball is a sport that can bring families together.
For the Raber family, baseball is more than a sport — it's a way of life.
The three Raber brothers – Kevin, Kory and Kelly – have been able to live out their dreams of playing for their hometown Dover squad for more than a quarter century.
They followed in the footsteps of both their grandfather (Bill Shoemaker, who played in the 1940s) and father (Larry Raber, who played in the 1960s) as players on the Central League club.
"It was our life," said Kevin Raber, who played with Dover from 1984-87. "Because that's what we did all summer long."
Perhaps the thing that stands out about the Rabers on the baseball field is their approach to the game. All three of them gave everything they had on the field and would never settle for anything less.
Those traits have definitely rubbed off on the next generation of the Raber clan, Kelly's son, Trent (17).
"It's just how they all got it done," said Trent, who will be a senior at Red Land High School this fall. "The hustle, the effort, the no-quit mentality. That's awesome stuff. It's a sham that everyone doesn't play that way."
Kelly Raber: The oldest of the three brothers, Kelly has always been the one getting most of the attention. The 54-year-old standout is at or near the top of many of the major records in Central League history. He's first in doubles (209), runs scored (850), tied for first in triples (40), second in career games played (929), second in hits (1,087), sixth in career batting average (.368) and seventh in RBIs (557).
Both of his brothers figure it to be only a matter of time before Kelly, who played quarterback at Virginia Military Institute and was inducted into that school's Hall of Fame back in 2005, is inducted into the Central League Hall of Fame. The honor could come as early as next year, when it has been five years since he last suited up for Dover.
While not playing competitively for a while, it's apparent that the competitive juices are still there. Both brothers mentioned that Kelly has entertained the idea of playing again — mostly in a joking manner but perhaps with a bit of seriousness to it — on a few occasions over the last few years.
"He's made a comment (that he can probably still play) at a couple of games this year," Kevin said of Kelly, who played with Dover from 1978 until 2009. "He can probably still hit this pitching because it's not like it used to be."
Besides being one of the toughest competitors in the league, the real marvel that his brothers and son appreciate was his workout regimen. Staying in great shape was always big with Kelly, who was known to run sprints after every ballgame.
"That's the kind of things you have to do when you get older," Kory said. "You have to run sprints or your legs will start to hurt."
Kevin Raber: There's no such talk of getting back into the game from Kevin Raber, who managed Dover for several years after Bruce Reinert stepped down. Four years younger than Kelly, Kevin was just pleased to be able to eventually play and coach with both of his brothers.
"Kelly was a natural athlete," Kevin Raber said. "I was just an average baseball player. I didn't really excel. When I first started playing in the Central League, I didn't play a lot because the team was that good. But I didn't care about that. I just enjoyed the fact that I was finally getting to be on the same team as Kelly at that time."
Kory Raber: The youngest of the trio, Kory Raber, who will turn 44 later this month, often would get overlooked. He was a key cog on several Central League championship teams, yet didn't get as much publicity as the real stars of that squad — Kelly Raber, Shawn Hedrick, Rich Leathery and the Reinert brothers (Ryan and Brendan).
But, sure enough, he's still playing long after some of them have retired, which isn't a surprise to Kevin.
"At his beginning stages he was a consistent player," Kevin Raber said. "He ran faster than Kelly. He had speed in his early years. Of course, when you get older you lose that. And then, back in the aluminum bat era, he probably hit more home runs on a consistent basis than Kelly."
Not as vocal as either of his brothers, Trent admitted that he's learned a lot from playing with his uncle Kory for a second season.
"He's quieter than my dad," Trent said. "But he always plays hard and that's how you should always play the game."
Trent Raber: Trent is a lot like his father. He certainly shares his dad's competitive juices in regards to chasing records, even those owned by his father.
"There's big pressure," Trent said. "But I tell my dad every day that I'm coming for him on the all-time list. I just have to make sure I can play 30 seasons."
While that was said mostly in jest, in all honesty, Trent hopes he can only approach the level of knowledge, skill and accomplishment of his father.
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to know or have the knowledge that he has on baseball," Trent said. "He's taught me everything I know."
Great family memories: While the three brothers never played regularly together because of their wide age ranges, there was a time when those three were a part of adding to Dover's illustrious baseball history. That came back in 1997, with Kelly and Kory on the field and Kevin in the dugout as a coach. That season Dover captured the league title for the first time in 11 years. They also defeated Susquehanna League champion York Township to the claim the York County title.
"That was the first year that we won a championship all together," Kevin said. "Now I had won a couple as a player with Kelly as a player back in the '80s there, but 1997 was the first one we did it all together."
The trio also won York County titles together in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2005.
To do it with each other made it all the sweeter for the Rabers.
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.