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Revs' closer DeMark still aims at getting MLB shot

Patrick Strohecker
505-5402/@P_Strohecker
  • DeMark is tied for the Atlantic League lead with 25 saves this season.
  • He has an ERA of 1.03 and didn't allow an earned run until his 19th appearance this season.
  • He was one of five Revolution players named to the Atlantic League All-Star Game this year.

It was a telling comment.

York Revolution closer Mike DeMark was talking about what he hopes to get out of his baseball career when the topic of the Atlantic League All-Star Game came up.

Former York Revolution closer Mike DeMark will pitch for Team Italy in next month's World Baseball Classic.

Over the course of his professional career, DeMark has made a number of all-star games at various levels, but there was something special about making this year's Atlantic League event. At 33 years old, he spoke about what it was like sharing a clubhouse with a bunch of players who've had their shots in the big leagues. Then came the ultimate revelation of what he still hopes his career can hold.

"Not being able to be in the big leagues," he said, before adding a key word. "Yet. Being around these guys, like (former major leaguers) Scott (Rice) and Manny (Corpas) and all those dudes, it was awesome to be selected as an All-Star."

DeMark is a year removed from being carried off the field in a game against the Lancaster Barnstormers with a herniated disk. Now in his 11th year of pro baseball, and never once making it past Class AAA, DeMark still believes he can get his one shot in "The Show."

If his 2016 performance means anything, he certainly still has the stuff to make it happen.

Career arc: During most of the stops that DeMark had made in his pro career, he's seen success. Yet, that doesn't always equate to making it to the game's highest level.

Undrafted out of Marietta College in 2006 because of a herniated disk, DeMark wound up signing with Florence in the Frontier League for the 2006 season. Despite a 1-4 mark that year, his ERA was still 3.22, helping him land a deal with the San Diego Padres for the 2007 season, reporting to high Class A.

Over the course of the next seven years, DeMark would navigate his way through the various ranks of minor league baseball for the Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics organizations. DeMark pitched well during most of his stops, but every time he made it to the AAA level, he struggled, posting some of the worst statistics in his career.

He made a brief stop in York to start the 2011 season, before having his contract purchased by the Diamondbacks. By 2014, however, he was back with the Revs, after starting the year with Somerset in the Atlantic League. He's been with York ever since, never earning the call he's been anxiously awaiting. As each year passes, the likelihood of a big league organization signing him becomes less and less.

That is, until this season.

Coming back strong: Chances are, had DeMark not suffered another herniated disk a year ago, his MLB opportunity may have come in 2015.

Off to a dominating start to the year, DeMark posted an 0.83 ERA in 21 2/3 innings. But, a back injury ruined any shot of having his contract purchased. What followed was an offseason full of rehab to make sure his final pro baseball moment wasn't being carried off the field by his teammates.

"This game is mental," DeMark said about coming back from his injury. "Anytime you have something like that happen, it's more mental than anything to come back from, and so, for me, it was a goal for me to come back and play. I never thought I'd come back and be the closer, but I wanted to come back."

As it turned out, he made the right decision, and the Revs can't be anything but thrilled that he did.

You could argue that DeMark's performance this year has been even more dominating than last year's, given his role, despite a slightly elevated ERA of 1.03.

Slotted as the closer coming into the season, DeMark leads the league lead in saves with 25. He didn't allow an earned run until his 19th outing of the season. Much of that success can be attributed to DeMark returning to a form that resembles a younger version of himself, rather than a guy in the back end of his career.

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"His velocity is back to what it used to be (low 90s) and he's developed this slider that was better than when he was here before," manager Mark Mason said. "So he can throw it softer velocity. And one thing he does is he pumps the strike zone and doesn't really walk too many guys. He just goes right after (hitters). That's his mentality."

It's a good mentality to have for a closer, especially one who only had 27 career saves coming into the season.

So, at 33, DeMark is proving that he still has what it takes to pitch at a higher level, maybe even the big leagues.

If that doesn't transpire, however, DeMark is content with where he is now. He's won championships at several levels in his career, ranging from an NCAA Division III national title in college to a couple in the minor leagues. If a call from an MLB organization isn't in his future, then he hopes that one final championship — this time in York — is.

"My approach is basically to win for this city," DeMark said. "Ever since I came back here, it's been something that has been a big spot in my heart. ... So, coming here, I want to win a championship real bad."

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com