Gibsons native Ryan Dempster was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on June 15. “Getting into any Hall of Fame, as a player, you take great pride,” said Dempster, who pitched for 16 years in the majors and won a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2013. “You appreciate the Jays and Expos and to be sitting here, at the Hall of Fame, is humbling and something to be grateful for.”
As he was introduced, Dempster was visibly thrilled to have his jacket put on by fellow Canadian and long-time Chicago Cub Fergie Jenkins. Dempster told a story of when he was recovering from Tommy John surgery and met Fergie on the field. “I was in the back fields and didn’t know how to throw a changeup, coming off of surgery. Fergie Jenkins took the time to show me and I went on to have the best years of my career as a Chicago Cub.”
Much of Dempster’s 25-minute speech had the crowd laughing yet he also stressed the importance of discipline and hard work and the good baseball people that he met along the way. “Professional players aren’t born, they are made… Something or someone helps facilitate that at some point – whether it is a coach or family member, they steer you in that direction. For me it was my papa, Cliff Dempster, who sat me on his lap and taught me about baseball, and then I started playing slopitch with my parents who gave me a glove and stuck me in the outfield.”
When asked about the best memories during his career, he reflected on his 2013 World Series run and “how we came together from the first week of spring training when we were a bunch of outcasts. We turned around real quick. We played together for one year and it felt like we had been playing together for 10 years.”
In the same year that the Boston Marathon bombing shook the city, the baseball team would later become a beacon of hope. “Through tragedy came triumph, and we had this great responsibility and this amazing honour to provide a place where people could go to get away from something so tragic and horrible, and lift those spirits up. Pain and suffering for so many people will never go away but we got to be a part of something really special and that’s an entire city being Boston strong.”
In his speech Dempster made note of the coaches and scouts who helped along the way, his fond memories of some of the people he played baseball with in the minors, and called Jim Hendry, former general manager and vice-president of the Chicago Cubs, the most honest man that he ever met in the game of baseball. “He always told it as it was. Sometimes you didn’t want to hear it, but that’s the way it was.”
Dempster also thanked other key figures from his baseball career, but singled out his family members and lifelong friends for special praise.
When it came to hard work and discipline, he said: “As I look out over the crowd here on the stage, I can’t think of two people who did a better job of that than my parents, Walter and Marnie Dempster. You guys sacrificed everything for us three boys. My mom wore the same pair of jeans for an entire year so that we could have that new glove or new pair of cleats. You started out as two young adults, my mom as a teenager and my dad in his early twenties. Next thing you know you had three young boys in your twenties.
“I know it wasn’t easy, I know it was hard, but you guys worked at it and you fought through the times when you barely had money and you put food on the table, and you continued to work hard. You battled through times when it felt like you surely would never make it, but here you are 42 years later. You’ve done an incredible job of raising three boys to be respectful, loving but most importantly, all hard working. When people ask me ... how does a kid from Gibsons make it to the major leagues, and I say hard work, and then they say who taught you that, I say the answer is easy – you guys did.”
Before Dempster received his Hall of Fame jacket, hostess Hazel Mae read a message that was sent from Tom Ricketts, executive chairman of the Chicago Cubs, and Cubs president Theo Epstein, who applauded Dempster’s induction.
The note read: “The Cubs organization joins the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in honouring the remarkable career of Ryan Dempster. Ryan’s tireless work ethic and sense of determination were key in making the journey from the small town of Gibsons, B.C., to a long and successful major league career. A true all-star both on and off the field we thank Ryan for being a wonderful ambassador for the Cubs organization and our beloved sport. In true Dempster fashion he always brings unmatched class and character to everything he does. We are proud to call Ryan Dempster a member of our Cubs family and celebrate this outstanding achievement with him as well as his family and many fans.”
Other 2019 inductees were outfielder and fellow B.C. native Jason Bay, coach Rob Thomson and executive Gord Ash.