Don DeMola is a former pitcher for the Montreal Expos in the mid 1970’s. He was drafted by the Yankees in the seventh round of the 1970 Amateur Draft out of South High School in Commack, New York.
“I was 18 years old when the Yankees invited me to Spring Training in 1971,” he said. Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer were there. I felt like I was in heaven!”
DeMola signed as a free agent with the Montreal Expos in January of 1973. The New York native referenced former 20-game winner, Mike Torrez as a mentor. Torrez was pitching for the Expos at the time of DeMola’s signing.
DeMola pitched one season in the minors before making his major league debut. He appeared in 25 games in 1974, 24 of which came in relief. The hard throwing righty went 1-0 and posted a 3.12 ERA, striking out 47 batters in 57.2 innings.
“Montreal is a great city and they really loved their Expos,” said DeMola. “They’re very passionate people and I enjoyed my time there very much. I hope they do get another team.”
The Expos reliever pitched two seasons in the major leagues. He owns a career 5-7 record with a 3.77 ERA in 85 appearances. DeMola enjoyed success against some of baseball’s most legendary hitters. Hall of Fame third baseman, Mike Schmidt, was hitless in eight career at-bats against DeMola. This includes three strikeouts. Dodgers All-Star Steve Garvey was also hitless in six career at-bats against him. Heck, even the great Hall of Fame catcher, Johnny Bench, was hitless in four at-bats against DeMola.
“I really bared down on the big-time hitters,” he said. “When I was on, I was up to triple digits, so I could rush it up there.”
DeMola understands better than anyone what it takes to make the major leagues. In an era where curveballs are a popular pitch among high school hurlers, DeMola believes learning how to throw a changeup could be a more effective tool for a professional career. He adds “there’s plenty of time” to learn how to throw all curveball, but throwing a changeup in any count “is so valuable later on if you get the opportunity to play in the pros.”
It’s not just pitching, but rather the confidence it takes to become a professional. Yogi Berra once said that “90 percent of the game is half mental.” The former Yankee draft pick offers a similar philosophy to the game.
“There’s a fine line between a big league ballplayer and a minor leaguer,” he said. “Determination, concentration and dedication is what separates the two, as well as the commitment to excellence. The fewest mistakes equals big successes!”
At the same time, success should not change a person. Students of game should always be humbled in their victories and defeats. It is that trait which defines the truly great of this world.
“You see the same people on the way up as you do on the way down,” said DeMola. “Never forget where you come from!”
We thank Mr. Don DeMola for his time and advice for the future of Major League Baseball!