By Deryck Kissoondath  (Toronto April 6, 2013)

Ryan Dempster has been waiting all winter for the 2013 season to begin and with good reason. For the 35 year old starting pitcher with the Boston Red Sox the necessity to win now could not be emphasized enough in his off-season preparation for 2013.  Dempster has already started out this season in fine form although he is still in limbo awaiting his first win of the season. In his first start of the season he pitched against lefty Andy Pettite, in Yankee Stadium, and came up short in seeking his first win. Even though he struck out eight batters, his four walks and three earned runs handed him his first loss of the season. He felt that “It was good, sometimes you make pitches and don’t get the results you want; sometimes you get away with mistakes.  I felt like I struck out a few too many guys and walked a few too many guys. I would like to throw fewer pitches than 100 in five innings. I felt good, it’s nice to be back in the program where you get rid of that tightness over the next five days.”  In his second start last week atFenwayPark, against the Baltimore Orioles he ended up with a no decision but improved his pitching line by striking out seven batters, while only handing out two walks and giving up one earned run.

For Dempster travel has become a new way of life as the Gibsons native found himself living out of a suitcase and then relocating once again for the 2013 season. Dempster pitched for nine seasons at Wrigley Field in Chicago, but found himself on the move to the Texas Rangers prior to the 2012 trade deadline.  According to Dempster “I’m a pretty smart guy and understand baseball and the politics of it.  It’s not something that I was terribly excited to do, obviously when you play somewhere that long you have the thought in your mind that you are gonna play there the rest of your career but at the same time with the direction the team was going , I wanted to help them get some players back.” Going to Texas also meant “it was exciting to get to go to a team that was contending for a playoff spot. It was a mixed bag of emotions as I played there (Chicago) for nine years, but it all worked out.”

As the 2012 campaign ended it would have made sense for Dempster to stay put in Texas but that also had a strange turn as to which uniform he would ultimately don for this season. Dempster added “Texas was awesome – amazingly first class organization especially the way that they treat players and their families. Guys there were all about winning as they had been to the World Series the past couple of years. I understood that I was a short term rental.” 

The choice to go from a team such as the Texas Rangers to the cellar dwellers of the American League East seems like it should have been an easy decision to make. Surprisingly, Dempster admitted “Of all the teams interested in me, I felt that it was the best chance to go out and compete for a World Series, it was my number one driving goal.  At this point in my career I want to try and get the ring and I looked at the players they were adding, and everything, and I was quite excited about it.” Even though the Red Sox finished in the basement in 2012, he feels “Any time a team finishes in last place you are the dark horse next year. We have expectations of ourselves and as a team, and we are going to go out and play hard every day.”  The goal for his team this year is “Go to the playoffs is our goal, it has never changed and we all talk about it a lot. It’s like anything, the more you talk about things – the more you believe them and see them. You talk about hitting a home run, you might hit a home run, you never talk about it, and you might never believe it is going to happen.” In his words the everyday lineup is “Really good with no Ortiz as yet.  We have table-setters at the top and guys throughout, middle and bottom. The possibility of those guys going up every day and putting up runs is exciting.”

As with the start of any season, health is a major concern to all athletes.  Dempster commented”I feel good! I’m getting older so I try to take care of myself better.  I’ve always had a diligent workout program in the off-season doing things that I need to do to get my legs as strong as possible in order to go out and pitch 200 innings. There is lots of lifting and circuit training to build up as much strength and endurance as you can to allow your legs to take the blow, for all the pitches you throw throughout the year.”

Much of the veteran prescence that has always been a strength on Boston has now disappeared. With Ryan Dempster in the lineup some of that much needed veteran leadership has been buoyed. “I’m a pretty loose guy and enjoy making people laugh.  As a player you go about your work – try to set an example as you go about things.  As a personality you try to keep things loose. When you play in a big market, in a tough division, you have to keep things light and loose otherwise life will just grind on you. You have to realize that we are just playing a game and have fun doing it.”

For Dempster, “It’s crazy – I always dreamed of being a major league baseball player.  From age 4 it’s what I wanted to do and as I got older and started driving towards it, I never had a moment of something else. It’s always been that way.”  The excitement of playing and contributing to a team on a daily basis is evident from Dempster’s rapid response to the question that that people often ask him about “What are you going to do when you’re done baseball?”

“I haven’t even stopped playing ball. I’m still living my dream. Growing up I never thought that I would make this kind of money. It is really incredible and I feel lucky and blessed. The security for my family, parents and the stuff I can do in the community with that kind of resources. As a little kid taking the ferry over to play for the North Shore Twins, to being in my 16th year in the majors seems surreal, sometimes unbelievable. If you put your mind to something, and stay determined, you can pretty much do anything you want.”

At a time when sports icons such as Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant are playing into their mid and late 30’s and getting career-ending injuries, “What can we expect to see from Dempster in the near future? “I want to play as long as I can and as long as I’m healthy.  Money is not important and numbers aren’t important. I love playing baseball but at the same time I don’t want to say I’m going to play until 40, and not be able to play until 40, and feel down about it. I’m just going to play and keep it simple; I’m not going to say 36, because I’m 36 in May.  My drive to prepare is still there and that is the biggest thing.  Once you lose the desire to want to prepare, it’s maybe when you should think of finishing. I really enjoy it and don’t see myself quitting any time soon.”