02/27/2007 10:33 AM ET
Dempster has a serious side
Cubs reliever quick with a joke, quick to help soldiers abroad
By George Castle/Special to MLBPLAYERS.com
Need a guy to loosen up your bullpen with movie lines and clever barbs? Ryan Dempster's your man.
The Cubs believe the 2007 version of Ryan Dempster will bounce back from 2006. (Getty)
Need a fella to be miked during a game to do impressions of Joe Buck and Harry Caray? Just point the way to Dempster.
Need a prankster to remove all four wheels from fellow Cubs reliever Will Ohman's truck? Speed dial to Dempster.
Dempster, however, was also the go-to guy last Father's Day weekend for the families of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Cubs closer and his wife, Jenny, knew they would be able to celebrate his first Father's Day following the birth of their first child, Brady. They felt fortunate, together as a family with Dempster doing something he loved and being paid well for it. They also knew that scores of families would have a hole in their hearts with loved ones stationed in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. They decided to host some 50 family members at Wrigley Field.
"A lot of it was her idea," Dempster said. "Jenny had an uncle who was shot down in Vietnam. Quite an amazing story. One of her cousins just came back in December from Iraq. Just talking about it being my first Father's Day, having a baby, what a tough time it would be to be gone. How fortunate we are to be around our family.
"Here are people who miss holidays, birthdays, Father's Day Mothers Day. What a neat opportunity, to have them out to the park and just kind of relax for a day to enjoy it. When Dad comes back, it would be kind of a neat story to tell him."
Jenny Dempster, busy with motherhood, and Cubs official Mary Dosek worked on the idea together. The Dempsters arranged for the families to obtain tickets and "Cubs Dollars" to purchase food and drinks.
"We'd take care of all the ins and outs, loose ends, [so the guests can] just enjoy the ballgame with family," Dempster said.
Interestingly, this largesse toward the families of soldiers in Iraq came from a Canadian player.
"My belief is I'm very, very proud to be where I'm from, to be Canadian," said Dempster, a British Columbia native. "I'm very patriotic about my country. But the United States of America has allowed me to have an opportunity that very few people in life experience, and I'm very grateful for that.
"In a way, even though I'm Canadian, I feel part-American, just because I've been here so long and been married to an American woman. I have a lot of respect for the country and what it's allowed me to attain and achieve. For me, I don't believe in war, but I believe in supporting anybody who's over there doing it. Because those people are true heroes and they put their life on the line every day to provide us a safe place to live, and to be with our families."
Support the policy or not, there can be no question those who serve do so almost beyond the call of personal duty.
"A lot of people don't realize, when they join the Armed Forces, they don't know what's in their future," Dempster said. "A lot of times you could be sitting there and a war breaks out and it's your duty to protect your country. It's really amazing to see these young men and women do it. It's even more amazing to see them come back and be with their families."
No wonder Dempster feels fortunate to be at peace with Jenny and Brady, and he's enjoying the experience of fatherhood.
"It's really a life-changing experience having a kid and having that responsibility, to feed someone, cuddle someone and burp someone," Dempster said. "(To) allow them to grow up to be a good, upstanding human being."
Dempster has a wild and crazy persona as an amateur stand-up comic. Will fatherhood tone him down?
"Maybe a little bit, maybe five percent," Dempster said. "I want to instill in him things my Dad taught to me that has allowed me to get where I am today."
Red Line Editorial