Ryan DempsterBy Deryck Kissoondath

Photos by Deryck Kissoondath and Brent Duncan

For Gibson native, and starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, Ryan Dempster will have a long season to reflect on why the team’s chances of making the post-season disappeared. The Cubs will finish the year at least 7.5 games behind the division leading St. Louis Cardinals. Dempster will finish the year with a reasonable record of 11-9 and come close to pitching a respectable 200 innings with a 3.51 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and at least 172 strikeouts. Despite those numbers though Dempster felt “It’s been a frustrating year because as a team we haven’t played as well as we wanted to play. It’s been up and down. We started off well and hit a bump on the road and the bump turned out to be more of a hill. It’s the way it goes. You are going to have to overcome things during the year, we didn’t put up as many wins as we wanted . It is as it is. We have to try and finish as strong so we can build towards next year.”

The personal goals for this year were simple for Dempster. ” I don’t put a lot of thought into numbers. Starts and innings are the biggest thing. I figure if I can make my starts and pitch innings, then I’ve got a chance to win games. I’ll be close. I always like to say 200 innings, nowadays it doesn’t seem like a lot. I feel like I’m capable of throwing 250 every year or even more. For me, I just want to try and get as close to that number every year. That means you’re going deep into ball games and helping your team out.”

That determination may have fallen just short after Dempster ended up for a short stint on the DL. He added “I try to stay away from the training room as much as possible, unfortunately it was a freak accident where I broke my toe, and missed three starts. For me, it was three games where I felt I could have helped us win three games, by being out there and giving us a chance to win.” In hindsight, those three games if won by Dempster, may have had the Cubs much closer to the playoffs than they finished.

There is an irony around Dempster’s injury as he turned down an opportunity to play with Canada in the World Baseball Classic back in March, by taking precautions to avoid an early spring injury. Dempster commented “I think that it’s a great concept and idea. I just think that the timing of it isn’t the best thing. People always say when would be a good time, I don’t know if there ever will be one. Baseball is such a different sport than any of the other ones, it’s not like the Olympics and hockey where you can take a two week break and things like that.

For me you do everything you can to prepare for what is a long season for us, getting yourself a month earlier, for us the season went a little longer last year. The timing for me is not good to try and get ready a month earlier. This is my job and it’s what I’m supposed to do, and I tale a lot of pride in that, it doesn’t mean that I’m any less patriotic. The biggest thing for me is I feel that everyday, even though I walk out in a Cub’s uniform, I’m representing Canada by the way I play. Maybe one of these day they’ll figure out the right timing and it would be something that worked. I feel comfortable getting in there and playing because it is something I’d like to do. I had a chance to play on two Junior Teams and it would be something I’d like to do.”

Ryan Dempster has cemented a position on this very talented Chicago Cub’s team. His leadership and potential as a steady workhorse every fifth day is imperative to the Cubs as they push to repeat their playoff run of 2008. His strong work ethic and relaxed demeanour is also something that the Cubs could take advantage of in 2010. Dempster knows his role on this team and mentioned “I’m an outgoing guy who will talk about life, as well as the game of baseball. I banter in the clubhouse and I’m just trying to get better, and I enjoy every day. I think it is the responsibility for a guy who has been around, to try and help the younger guys along the way. You hope that you can set an example and lead by example.” It is precisely this type of attitude that will help anchor the Cub’s starting rotation and is one of the reasons that Ryan Dempster was signed to a new four year contract in 2008.