In September, Scottsdale Horizon senior Collin Demas was told by his doctor he was cancer free.
“It was the best news I ever received in my life,” he said. “I actually got to return to school a couple of weeks later. I started being able to come back to baseball. I got my port out in December, and I could work out with the team.”
A week ago, Demas received the next-best news in his life.
New Horizon baseball coach Jeff Urlaub informed the pitcher that he made the team. Not only that, he was named a team captain.
“The only two things I wanted my senior year were to play golf and to be able to come back to baseball,” said Demas, who missed all of his junior season while battling leukemia. “So to hear that I was made captain meant a lot.”
Demas has a new lease on life and it’s a new era for Horizon baseball. The 2019 baseball season begins Saturday for the Huskies at 1 p.m. against Paradise Valley.
After a difficult 2018 season, in which Eric Kibler, the only head coach the school has had since it started playing baseball in 1980, lost his fight with school administrators and the Paradise Valley school district to get one more season to lead the Huskies.
Urlaub, who played for Kibler and was an Horizon assistant, was promoted to head coach, replacing a man who had won 808 games, more than any baseball coach in Arizona high school history.
“You try to pick up where Coach Kibler left off,” said Urlaub, who was a pitcher in the Oakland Athletics’ organization. “He set the program and precedent of how things are run around here with the tradition and everything.”
Urlaub and Stanford shortstop signee Kody Huff helped Demas get through last season with frequent visits.
“He was an inspiration in the fact that now I never take a day for granted,” Huff said. “I know he enjoys being on the field every day. It means a ton to him. It opens my eyes that each day I go to Husky Park, it’s such a blessing, playing for such a storied program, be around great guys, coaches. It’s stuff you can’t take for granted.”
Urlaub said it was an emotional moment when he told Demas he had a place on his first team and was one of the captains.
“It was a special moment for both of us,” Urlaub said. “I was with him going through his treatments last year, visiting him in the hospital. I was one of the first phone calls he made when he was cancer free.
“He said, ‘Coach, I’m ready to go out and play.’ I said, ‘All right, let’s go to work.’ It was a big moment for him. Obviously, it was a big moment for me (to tell him he was a team captain and made the team). I was honored to tell him that.”