Robert Fabing spends up to three hours a day walking around Hollister to keep in shape—and that’s just during the morning and early afternoon hours. In the evening, the 60-year-old Fabing spends his time indoors running up and down a court refereeing high school basketball games.
Fabing has a great reason for being active, as he is on the long road back to recovery after undergoing brain cancer surgery in May 2016.
“I can’t stand sitting at home watching TV, so my goal everyday is to get the hell out of the house since I can’t work yet,” he said. “I want to get in shape and stay in shape. My doctors are happy.”
They’re not the only ones who are joyful this Christmas season. A longtime coach and sports official, Fabing has affected countless lives in the greater South Valley area, especially youth baseball players. As one way to show their appreciation for Fabing, the San Benito High baseball and softball programs will host a benefit clinic at the high school on Dec. 22 and 23, with proceeds going to the Fabing family and the Baler baseball and softball teams.
A slew of former San Benito High standouts will be there as special instructors, headlined by Darin Gillies, who recently completed his initial foray into the Arizona Fall League after a solid season with the Arkansas Travelers, the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Other guest instructors include Daniel Barone, who had a stint pitching for the Florida Marlins, Connor Menez, who pitched for the San Jose Giants this past season, and Hunter Haworth, who signed with the Boston Red Sox after getting drafted by them last summer.
It’s a Who’s Who of former San Benito athletes who want to give back to a man who has endeared himself to the community with his passion for youth and sports.
The rest of the guest instructor list includes Michael Breen, Zak Moeller, Josh George, J.C. Clayton, Paige Miguel, Megan Sabbatini and Taylor Fabing, Robert’s daughter. In conjunction with the Baler baseball and softball programs, Gillies helped organize the event.
“It’s great that you have all these people coming to give back,” San Benito High baseball coach Billy Aviles said. “Robert has helped so many kids in the community and has had a positive impact on so many kids’ lives as a coach and umpire.”
But Fabing’s impact goes beyond San Benito County. As a Gilroy High graduate and part of Peninsula Sports, Inc.—one of the officials’ association the Central Coast Section uses—people from the South Valley and Monterey area know Fabing as well.
“We’re getting people calling from Gilroy and Monterey wanting to help because Robert knows so many people,” Aviles said.
Fabing is humbled to know that dozens of former athletes, coaches and friends will be at the clinic, which goes from 9 a.m. to noon for 8 to 12-year-olds and 1 to 4 p.m. for the 13 to 16-year-old age group for both days. The price of admission is $100, and checks can be made to Baler Backers, with all of the proceeds going to the San Benito baseball and softball programs, along to the Fabing family.
“It’s heartwarming to know I was able to make an impact in kids’ lives,” Fabing said. “It’s all about heart. If they see you care about them and love the game, they’ll remember that for the rest of their lives.”
Fabing was diagnosed with high stage two brain cancer on March 26, 2016, a moment that not surprisingly left him in tears. After the initial shock, however, Fabing approached cancer as he did every part of his life: in attack mode, ready to take on a challenge.
“After two to three days of being diagnosed, I said, ‘Let’s go, crack my head open and cut the cancer out,’” Fabing said. “My attitude was to get after it and continue to work.”
And that’s exactly what Fabing did. In May 2016, Fabing underwent a successful yet harrowing 11-hour surgery. Two months later, Fabing started an eight-week program of daily radiation treatments, along with nine total months of chemotherapy. The treatments worked, as Fabing’s cancer is in remission.
Fabing was back at UCSF Tuesday for his bi-monthly checkup in which he undergoes a battery of tests.
“I passed all my tests big time,” he said. “I’m way ahead of the game.”
It goes without saying that the Baler baseball community has already received the best Christmas gift possible—Fabing is alive and well, and itching to return to a “normal” life.
“My goal and dream is to go back to work again, hopefully some time in 2018,” said Fabing, who worked for a termite company in San Jose before his cancer diagnosis in March 2016.
Make no mistake: Fabing is happy to be alive. But he’s not going to sugarcoat his current state, as he still has trouble recalling certain names or facts that he would otherwise would come up with pre-surgery. On New Year’s Day, Fabing will start a new round of medicine in the hopes that it will basically “get my brain going back so I can pass all my tests and get cleared to work.”
Fabing has received tremendous support from Mary, his wife of 32 years; his two sons, Trevor and Connor; and Taylor, who graduated from Arizona Christian University last Friday. The latter was anything but a foregone conclusion, since Fabing’s diagnosis came in Taylor’s junior year.
“It was very emotional to see Taylor graduate,” Fabing said. “It wasn’t an easy thing for her to be in Arizona while this was happening. She flew back often, and if I hadn’t pushed her it would’ve been hard for her to graduate because I was in the hospital for so long. I’m so proud of all of my kids.”
Fabing’s life forever changed on March 23, 2016, when he was watching San Benito play at Valley Christian in San Jose. During the middle innings, Fabing collapsed, his head banging against the concrete. As he lay in a pool of blood momentarily unconscious, Fabing awoke in a haze.
“I was looking up at the sky and thought I was looking at God,” he said. “I thought I was gone. Finally I was able to see and feel a lady from the stands, whose son was playing shortstop. She was the one who jumped in and rescued me.”
Fabing got assessed before being taken to the hospital, where doctors feared the worst. Three days later, Fabing was diagnosed with high stage 2 brain cancer. To this day, Fabing counts his blessings that he didn’t black out while driving, as it could’ve led to horrific injuries not just to him but to others.
To get some insight into his competitive personality, Fabing seemed a bit embarrassed that the game was momentarily stopped because of him. The Balers ended up defeating Valley Christian, 3-2.
“I can’t believe I missed a Balers victory,” he said.
On Dec. 22 and 23, the San Benito High baseball and softball programs in conjunction with Gillies, will be hosting more than just a clinic—it’ll be an event symbolizing how tight-knit the Baler sports community is, paying tribute to a person who has left a lasting impact and will continue to leave a legacy going forward.