IOWA CITY – Matt Dermody emerged from his car covered in black dust from head to toe. He carried traces of a long day of work within a tire factory into the house with him.
The soot from the tires came from his summer job working with the sheet metal worker’s union.
It’s not what the Iowa pitcher envisioned after being drafted to play professional baseball.
“That was harsh in the summer,” Dermody said. “I was just out in the heat every day.”
Dermody’s vision for his summer involved a different kind of heat – what they call in Arizona a “dry heat.” The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Dermody in the 23rd round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft.
It was the third time the Norwalk-native had been drafted. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the 26th round in 2009 and the Colorado Rockies chose Dermody in the 29th round in 2011.
The third time seemed to be the charm.
“It just felt right being I had one year left of college,” Dermody said. “I felt the opportunity could possibly not be there in the future. So I thought might as well take the opportunity while I still have it.”
The opportunity didn’t last. A number 46 jersey hung in a locker with “Dermody” nameplate signifying his spot. An MRI stood in the way of making it all his. Instead the scan took it all away.
The Diamondbacks’ physicians found Dermody had a 40 percent tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.
“I did not expect that at all. My arm was sore from the season,” Dermody said. “I just thought normal soreness.”
After diagnosing the issue, the Diamondbacks withdrew their offer and told Dermody his plane for Iowa left in three hours.
“I was disappointed. I was pretty bummed for a week. You have to get over it,” Dermody said. “Shoot, when I got sent back, it was like dang. It was so quick.”
He returned home and the University of Iowa’s doctors had another surprise for him. They saw nothing wrong with his left throwing elbow.
“They took a look at the same MRI and said ‘It’s zero percent tear.’ That nothing’s wrong with it,” Dermody said. “So it’s kind of questionable what exactly was diagnosed there.”
Even with no tear, the doctors still recommended rehab. It meant no summer baseball for the first time since Dermody could remember. It also marked the first time in his life the Hawkeye southpaw had to get a job.
He ended up as a steel sheet worker his dad, Pat Dermody.
“I thought, this is a good thing because it’s tough out there,” Pat Dermody said. “It’s one of those things that is going to make him keep that baseball dream alive. If you can get a chance to make a sport your livelihood, you gotta go for it.”
Spurned by the Diamondbacks, Iowa head coach Jack Dahm and team welcomed Dermody back for his senior season. Through four starts this season the southpaw boasts a perfect 3-0 record with an ERA of 2.77.
Both numbers are trend upward after Dermody finished his junior season at 1-7 with an ERA of 4.50.
He’s also gone back to his old arm slot to regain some deception in his windup he had as a sophomore. Dermody possesses the same velocity as last year with his fastball peaking in the low 90s.
The lefty also added a polished slider to his repertoire, which was as simple so moving his thumb lower on the ball.
“He’s different this year. He’s got a little edge to him, a little chip to himself,” Dahm said. “It’s been fun to watch.”
Currently fans can watch him at Banks Field in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes open their season against Coe College on Tuesday.
Last summer Dermody envisioned pitching in a minor league stadium. He’s confident that chance is still in his future.
“I guess that was a pretty emotional summer for me,” Dermody said. “And I wasn’t playing baseball. I’ve never had that.”
And he hopes he never has to again.