Ryan Dempster briefly came out of retirement on Aug. 14 to pitch for a hardball team at his namesake field in his hometown of Gibsons.
“They managed to squeeze me in, which is really nice of them,” Dempster told Coast Reporter while resting in the batting cage.
Wednesday’s game was the first for the former major leaguer since 2017, when he came out of retirement to pitch for Canada at the World Baseball Classic. It was also the first time he has pitched in his hometown since he was a teenager.
“To be here on a field that has your name on it and to be able to play a summer game with a bunch of people on a Wednesday night, I really think it’s pretty cool. You look around and you see all these people around here, just cheering everybody on, it reminds you of being a kid again. And I think that’s a really important thing when you get older,” said Dempster, 42.
About 300 people showed up to watch the hardball game, which pitted Dempster’s Sluggers against the Crushers.
Dempster played with several Major League Baseball (MLB) teams over the course of his 16-season pro career, including the Boston Red Sox in 2013 when they won the World Series. In June he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
This week’s return to the pitching mound was a surprise for most, including the founder and president of the Sunshine Coast Hardball League. “It wasn’t really planned until yesterday,” Andrew Appleton told Coast Reporter the day of the match.
The idea came from Dempster’s cousin, Conner, who plays for the Sluggers. He told Appleton he had “this player that I’d like to pick up,” since his team was short.
Appleton responded, “Who, Ryan Dempster?” Turns out it was. “It was pretty funny,” Appleton said. “We both had a good chuckle.”
Despite the risk the MLB pitcher’s prowess could skew the results, Appleton jumped at the chance to have Dempster appear in the second game of the league’s rookie season. “I welcomed it with open arms. I think it’s going to be a huge shot in the arm for the league that’s just starting up,” he said.
The game ended in a 10-10 tie.
As for whether fans can expect regular appearances, Dempster told Coast Reporter: “If I was here I’d definitely join the league and play.”