Former Hawkeye baseball player drafted four times in five years

BY JACOB SHEYKO | JUNE 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Former Iowa Hawkeye pitcher Matt Dermody has a dream: to play baseball at the professional level.

One year ago, his dream looked as if it was about to come true but vanished as quickly as it appeared. Now a year later, Dermody will try to fulfill his dream one last time.

He was taken in the 23rd round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. For the Norwalk, Iowa, native, being drafted had become routine. He was drafted twice prior to 2012 but decided to play for Iowa each time rather than sign a professional contract — he was selected in 2009, fresh out of high school, and again in 2011 following his sophomore season as a Hawkeye.

“It just wasn’t right,” he said. “I was only halfway done with school, and I wanted to finish another year.”

But 2012 was different. The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Dermody with the 723rd pick after a season in which he posted a 4.50 ERA in 76 innings. Dermody sought to begin his professional career but was met with unplanned and devastating news.

The Diamondbacks decided not to sign Dermody after he was diagnosed with a 40-percent ulnar collateral ligament tear, causing the organization to become hesitant about his ability to throw. They sent him on a plane ride back to Iowa.

“It really sucked, getting prepared to do what I want to do for the rest of my life, and then that happened — it was really an awakening,” he said.

Members of the Iowa baseball team were just as surprised as he by the news of his injury. But none more than then-Iowa baseball coach Jack Dahm, who said Dermody never missed a day of throwing.

“I anticipated that he would be calling about signing,” Dahm said. “If anything, we thought Matt threw too much on a daily basis.”

Dermody, then facing a senior season that wasn’t supposed to happen, knew he’d confront some disadvantages other than opposing hitters.

“It was known that I didn’t pass [a physical], and [Arizona] didn’t sign me for that reason,” he said.  

Dahm said he didn’t know if Dermody would be able to pitch because of the injury, and he also worried about the pitcher’s psychological state.

But the coach’s worries were quickly vanished after the first team meeting of the 2013 season.

There, Dermody told Dahm that he was the luckiest guy in the world to play baseball for the Hawkeyes.

“It wasn’t about him,” Dahm said. “It was about the program, the team, and the university.”

Close friend, and Hawkeye teammate Dan Sheppard said he never saw a different Dermody off the field, noting, “He has always been an even-keel guy through both the ups and downs.”

Dermody performed at his highest level yet this past season, leading the team in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts en route to a season where he posted a 7-2 record with a 3.64 ERA. His 68 strikeouts was the fifth most in the Big Ten, and despite all that had happened to him, his focus never strayed from the team.

“I was just trying to help the team the best I could, not really worrying about my health,” he said.

On June 8, Dermody was drafted for the fourth time in five years during the MLB draft. He went in the 29th round (835th pick) to Toronto. Pending a physical, Dermody will sign a contract with the Blue Jays and be sent to any of their three minor league affiliates located in Florida, West Virginia, and Vancouver, B.C.  

Dermody boarded a flight today for Tampa, Fla., to begin his professional baseball career for a second time. The experience will be all too familiar for him. But this time, he hopes for a one-way ticket.

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