Cyndi Lauper told us in the 1980s that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”
But, as it turns out, so do boys.
Justin Demand likes to have fun. The Lakes senior hangs out with his friends for fun, he fishes for fun, he plays baseball for fun.
For most of his life, in fact, Demand figured he needed nothing more from baseball than the enjoyment factor.
But within the last year, Demand realized that the fun he was having in baseball would be over for good once his senior season ended, and he wasn’t ready for that.
So, Demand, a 6-foot-5 left-handed pitcher, began to demand more from himself. He’s hoping that the payoff for a lot of extra effort on his part will be a fun run through the season as Lakes’ ace, and a fun way for him to get himself through college.
“Even through the end of last season, I never really took baseball too seriously,” Demand said. “I was just out to have fun, I wanted to have a good time. My parents never really pushed me to play baseball. I never really pushed myself. I just wanted to have fun with it.”
The old Demand didn’t really concern himself with the less fun parts of baseball. He didn’t spent countless hours in the batting cage, he didn’t hire a pitching coach, he didn’t work out with personal trainers or make the weight room his new home.
“I really didn’t do much in the off-season,” Demand said. “I just hung out with my friends and I have a job, so I would work. I wasn’t really doing anything for baseball because I never really intended to play baseball in college. It was just something I did for fun each spring.”
But as Demand kept growing, teammates and coaches kept telling him that at his size, he could be really good as a left-handed pitcher if he put some extra time in, maybe even good enough to pitch in college.
“That kind of kicked in with me last summer as I was thinking about this being my last season,” Demand said. “I love baseball. I couldn’t imagine not playing baseball next year.
“I knew I had to do more and work harder so that I could play baseball in college next year.”
Demand, who had a 2.97 earned run average last year in helping Lakes to 21 wins and a regional championship as the No. 2 pitcher, will, as it turns out, be playing in college next year at the College of Lake County. He’ll be joining former teammate Chris Hoffman, who was the Eagles’ ace last season. Hoffman has been Demand’s best mentor and role model.
“With the help of Chris, Justin started attending workouts at Fastball USA in Schaumburg and is now one of our hardest workers and a leader in practice,” Lakes coach Ray Gialo said. “Through hard work and dedication, Justin has raised his game tremendously.
“A number of coaches and players have always talked with him about how good he could be with a commitment in the off-season. This winter he raised his effort and I think that if he continues to work hard, the sky is the limit for Justin.”
Demand worked out three times a week at Fastball USA and then spent every other day working out at Lakes. He says his strength and stamina on the mound has improved, as has his change-up and curveball.
His plan is to keep up his daily workout regimen so that he can play well enough while he’s at CLC to draw the attention of scouts from bigger four-year colleges.
“I’m really glad I got more serious about baseball and started working hard because it feels good. It feels good to get better and be competitive enough to play in college,” Demand said. “I kind of wish I had been doing this all through high school because you never know what would have happened.”
For starters, Demand probably would have seen his friends a lot less. Baseball tends to fill up his calendar quickly now.
“I don’t see my friends very much at all now,” Demand said. “They understand, though. They’re very supportive of me and what I’m trying to do. They know how important baseball is to me.”
Having fun is still important to Demand, too, so he tries to see his friends when he can.
He’ll also try to spend as many relaxing days outdoors as possible. He can’t wait for the temperatures to warm, and not just because it makes for better baseball weather.
“I really want to go fishing,” Demand said. “I love doing that. It’s a lot of fun.”
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