June 14, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois closer Andy Deain became the latest addition to Ed Mathey's growing list of Huskies who have signed professional contracts on Monday. By signing with the Baltimore Orioles organization, Deain's childhood dream came true after performing at a high level for five years at NIU.
"This feels great," said a joyful Deain hours after completing the signing particulars at the Baltimore Orioles' Spring Training facility in Sarasota, Fla. "Growing up, playing professional baseball is what I wanted to do. This is a great opportunity for me, I can't explain it. This is my dream. It's one of the best days of my life. You have no idea how happy I am to play pro ball."
"It's an exciting day for Andy," said Mathey, who has now coached 22 Huskies that have signed professional contracts since 2003. "Any time we have someone sign a pro contract, it's exciting for NIU baseball. Andy's been in the program for five years and this would have happened last year, but the injury set him back. He worked hard to get back and had a good year for us. I'm excited for him.
"Andy, like a lot of the guys from NIU that are still playing professionally, was not drafted out of high school. That's a good sign for NIU baseball because it shows that guys are coming here, improving and developing here, and going on to play professionally."
What made the fifth-year senior's dream come true was his outstanding career as a Huskie. Deain joins the Orioles after leaving his name etched in the NIU baseball record book. He ranks No. 1 all-time at NIU and in the Mid-American Conference in appearances (128). The 2008 second team All-MAC performer led the league in saves for two seasons, leaving with the program's second most career saves total (23), which ranks eighth all-time in the MAC. Deain saved his best for last, finishing his senior season with a career-high 12 saves, the 11th highest total in the nation. Despite being a reliever for most of his career, Deain racked up 17 career wins, the fourth most all-time by a Huskie. Additionally, his 156 career strikeouts are the ninth-best total in program history.
With dominant statistics as a reliever in college, Deain will remain in the bullpen as an Oriole. In working his way to the Majors, Deain will serve as a right-handed specialist. While the role is not exactly what it was as a Huskie, it is not far off. According to Deain, though, he could not have reached the professional level by himself.
"The Orioles told me that I'm going to be a righty specialist," said Deain. "Coach Mathey used me in similar situations, when I had to get right-handers out, so it won't be too different.
"Coach Mathey has a huge network of connections and he's always promoting his players. I know this would not be possible without him and coaches Ray Napientek, Steve Joslyn and Jason Smith. They have all been very good to me. Without all of their help, there's no way I'd be where I am today."
"Coming out of the bullpen as a closer, you have the mentally to come in and shut guys down," said Mathey. "That will obviously help him with the Orioles. With his work ethic and talent, he's a guy that is going to continue to move up the ladder because of the arm slot that he throws from. He could be a very good guy against right-handed hitters. We used him in that role in his first couple seasons to set up Matt German, who is now in the Phillies organization."
The Crystal Lake, Ill. native has already reported to Florida for a four-day mini-camp at Baltimore's Spring Training facility, Ed Smith Stadium. After working out and throwing bullpen sessions in Sarasota, Deain will head to Bluefield, W. Va. to finish the season as a member of the Bluefield Orioles, Baltimore's Rookie affiliate in the Appalachian League. With Bluefield's first game scheduled for June 22, Deain is not worried about the short time to meet his teammates and prepare for the beginning of another season in 2010.
"Every year at Northern, I was always shipped out to play summer ball somewhere, so I'm used to this in a way," Deain said. "It's the same atmosphere, same idea: Get to know the guys real quick and play the game. It's not that much of a culture shock because I'm used to doing that."
If Deain does need help adjusting to the new work place, there are two familiar faces in the organization that he can look to for suggestions: Bobby Stevens and Rick Zagone. Stevens played with Deain at NIU for three seasons (2006-08) before being selected in the 16th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Orioles. Zagone played four years alongside Deain at Prairie Ridge High School before going on to play at Missouri and becoming the sixth-round pick by the Orioles in 2008. Stevens and Zagone have since moved up in the organization and are playing for the High-A affiliate Frederick Keys, but both can provide insight after already going through Bluefield.
"[Bobby] already called me and said: `You better catch up with me in the system in the next couple years,'" joked Deain. "It's nice that they are [in the organization]. They can give some insight on what to expect in the future: How the talent is there and the weather, stuff like that. I don't know what to expect now, so it's nice to have them there to tell me about it."