As a child, he threw a perfect season. In high school, he threw a perfect game sandwiched between no-hitters. Maybe it was only a matter of time before Joe DeMers threw a perfect game in college.
The Washington junior ace pitcher became the first player in school history to throw a perfect game. He did it Saturday in an 8-0 win over California-Riverside at Husky Ballpark. Demers became only the fifth Pac-12 pitcher and the 27th since 1959 to pull off such an accomplishment. It’s actually the earliest recorded perfect game in NCAA history.
His life and playing career are not defined by a single moment. Coming out of high school, he could have gone high in the draft and into a MLB team’s farm system. DeMers, the son of a UW graduate, chose college instead. Getting an education goes beyond having a fallback plan in case a professional career doesn’t work out. He chose to major in sociology to have a better understanding of the world. From that, he was inspired to pursue a minor in African-American studies because he said he seeks to have a better understanding of equality and what can be done to achieve it.
“I really just play baseball, hang with friends, workout. I don’t have much down time really,” DeMers said. “It’s baseball, school and hanging with friends. I play video games for sure.”
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Huskies junior catcher/third baseman Willie MacIver, who has known DeMers since they were eight, joked his best friend is perfect at a lot of things. Video games is not one of them.
MacIver claims he has the upper hand in Madden and MLB The Show. But he did admit DeMers is better at NBA 2K.
“Oh really?,” DeMers asked with a big grin. “He’s lying. I’m better than him at 2K and The Show. He has me in Madden and that’s pretty much it.”
They can debate who’s the better gamer, but MacIver does not mess around when telling the larger-than-life backstory about the teammate he considers “a brother.”
MacIver said DeMers was bigger than everyone else. MacIver’s dad coached their Little League team and said DeMers was so big, that he had to wear his dad’s t-shirt because they couldn’t get a big enough jersey.
Even though DeMers was big, MacIver said he was so athletic and fast that he dominated every sport he played.
DeMers was also goofy. MacIver said when they were kids, DeMers’ brother, who they still refer to as “Big Jack”, poured a bowl of Frosted Flakes and didn’t like what followed.
“Joe walks into the kitchen, opens the fridge and chugs the rest of the milk. No more milk.” MacIver recalled. “Big Jack had a bowl of empty Frosted Flakes and he just lost it. Just beating him until he started crying on the floor. Me and my other buddy are sitting on the couch just laughing. Joe’s crying and Jack’s just pissed. It was a really funny story of just some classic brotherly love going on there.”
MacIver is good for more than telling a funny story. He said DeMers started getting noticed when he threw a perfect season when they were kids.
DeMers said he didn’t give up a hit until they were in the playoffs. But by that point, he started carrying his birth certificate because opposing parents asked if he really was the same age as their children.
College coaches started noticing DeMers when he was a freshman at College Park (Calif.) High. From there, he would represent Team USA Baseball and won three gold medals at different youth tournaments in Nicaragua, Mexico and Taiwan.
His senior year was his strongest campaign. Aside from the no-hitter and two perfect games, he gobbled up nearly every award in sight. He was the California Gatorade Player of the Year, the Perfect Game Pitcher of the Year and First Team All-American and was named the Max Preps National Player of the Year.
“Joe was a huge commit for us. I think he had offers from every Pac-12 school,” Huskies pitching coach Jason Kelly said. “He was a Top 10 national recruit and had just tons of experience with Team USA. Him committing to us was a huge, huge get for us.”
DeMers said with his mother being a UW graduate, he grew up a massive Huskies fan. He wore UW clothes and hats as a child. So the idea of coming to Montlake was never out of the question.
Like Kelly said, getting DeMers was a boost for the program. DeMers, by his senior year, was throwing 95 mph and was projected to go in the second round. He let MLB teams know early he wanted to play college baseball, which is why he went undrafted.
D1Baseball.com recently wrote DeMers is the No. 43 collegiate prospect for the MLB Draft in June. Most college pitchers have two pitches. Three if they’re lucky.
Kelly said DeMers can throw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a slider and a change-up. He said DeMers has a curveball but it’s rarely used.
“That’s why he was so successful (in the perfect game),” Kelly said. “Because he can do anything he wanted on any count. There was no pattern with what he was doing.”
Kelly recalled how DeMers needed time to adjust to the college game. He was 3-5 with a 6.91 earned run average as a freshman. The following year he was 6-3 with a 3.35 ERA.
DeMers, through two starts this season, is 1-0 with 16 strikeouts and three walks. He’s allowed three hits over 15.0 innings.
“His freshman year was not as successful as he wanted it to be,” Kelly said. “He gave up a lot of hits and the game is just different. As you would expect, it was a step above.”
Kelly said DeMers took ownership midway through his freshman year when it came to developing his pitches. He said DeMers approached him, wanting to know more about what he could do to be better.
Trying to get a greater understanding is an approach DeMers takes beyond baseball.
DeMers said he became a sociology major because he’s interested with what’s going on in the world. He said studying sociology has helped him “become a better human” when it comes to how he interacts with everyone he meets. He’s also minoring in African-American studies.
“I didn’t know how two-sided it was. How different it was for whites and blacks,” he said. “It’s given me a different perspective on the world, America and I just want to keep learning. I think I learn something new every day in those classes.”
Ryan S. Clark: @ryan_s_clark