PENDLETON — —A boyhood dream came true Monday for Chayce McDermott.
The former Pendleton Heights and Ball State University standout pitcher was selected by the Houston Astros with a fourth-round compensatory pick in the Major League Baseball draft Monday, the second day of the three-day 20-round draft.
“I was super excited (to get the call). All my hard work finally paid off,” McDermott said of being notified by the Astros organization. “It was definitely a great feeling.
“This has always been my dream. Obviously, I have a few more steps to get to where I want to be in my career, but this is a nice starting point. It has definitely been a dream of mine.”
McDermott was No. 127 on MLB.com’s prospect rankings. He was selected No. 132 by the Astros.
A 6’3”, 197-pound right-handed pitcher, McDermott threw three seasons for BSU, including a 2020 campaign that saw him make just three starts in a season shortened by the pandemic.
The former Arabian’s style would best be described as a hard-thrower.
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According to MLB.com’s profile, McDermott had worked out at 90 to 95 mph with his four-seam fastball, but had gained significant velocity this past season. The scouting report said he had sat at 92 to 96 mph and reached 98 mph during this past season at Ball State.
He had caught scouts’ eyes in the past but had gained greater attention during the 2021 season.
He ranked No. 5 in the nation in strikeouts with 125 and was No. 13 in strikeouts per nine innings at 13.61.
In 15 starts for BSU, McDermott threw 82.2 innings and went 8-2 with a 3.05 earned run average. He had two complete games, and hitters batted just .204 against him.
He was voted second team All-Mid-American Conference and second team American Baseball Coaches Association All-Region. He was twice named MAC Pitcher of the Week, an honor he earned three times in his career.
He was voted the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Pitcher of the Week after a 13-strikeout performance versus Toledo on March 30.
“I had a little bit of interest (from pro scouts) last year, but with the shortened season things didn’t work out like I wanted it. This year was definitely the big turning point for me,” McDermott said.
McDermott has come a long way from his freshman season. He missed 2018 after having Tommy John surgery, a UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) reconstruction surgery inside his throwing elbow.
Often career-threatening with a long period for rehabilitation, McDermott said he never believed his elbow injury and surgery would be the end for him.
“I don’t think I ever thought (my career was over),” he said. “Tommy John’s is a tough one to swallow when it happens — at the same time it was almost a blessing in disguise for me. It gave me a lot of time to put on weight, gain some muscle, fix mechanical issues, that kind of stuff. As negative as it seems sometimes to the outside world, sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise for the player, and that’s how it was for me.”
Overcoming adversity is a McDermott family trademark.
Chayce had watched his mother, Kim McDermott, win her battle with cancer. His older brother, Sean McDermott, bounced back from a life-threatening illness in high school to star on the basketball floor with the Arabians and Butler University. Sean signed with the Memphis Grizzlies organization prior to this past season.
For Chayce, his problem felt minuscule compared to what his mom and brother went through, but he definitely learned a lot from watching them fight back.
“I think it stems from the work ethic that was instilled in all of us and resilience we’ve been taught,” Chayce said. “Watching my brother go through the things he went through and my mom go through the things she went through, it was easy to take a step back and look at the positives of (my situation). They were fighting for their lives; I was just trying to stay healthy.
“It was a lot easier for me to go through what I went through than what it was for them. They taught me to be tough and keep grinding.”
At Pendleton Heights, McDermott lettered three seasons. He was a two-time All-Hoosier Heritage Conference selection and led the Arabians to a 19-6 record during his senior season. In 2017, he went 4-3 with a 2.29 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 49 innings pitched. McDermott was part of two sectional championship teams and one conference championship.
He said he has a lot of coaches and other influences who have helped him get this far. He said there are too many to name, but he did single out his most recent mentors at Ball State, head coach Rich Maloney, pitching coach Larry Scully and former pitching coach Dustin Glant, who also coached in the area at Lapel and Mt. Vernon high schools along with Anderson University.
His older brother came up again.
“Spending so much time watching how hard he worked, I’m super proud of him and what he’s accomplished,” Chayce said. “I think I get a lot of my work ethic from him. He’s just as big a part of my career as a lot of others; he just may not know it. It is cool to see both of us pursue our dreams.”
Chayce said Tuesday he has verbal contract agreement with the Astros. MLB.com estimated the signing bonus for the No. 132 draft slot to be $426,600.
He expects to hear from the club later this week on signing a contract and finding out which Astros affiliate he will head to.
The Astros Rookie League program in the Gulf Coast League is in West Palm Beach, Florida. Its Class Low-A team is the Fayetteville (North Carolina) Woodpeckers. The Class High-A team is the Asheville (North Carolina) Tourists.
As he works his way up the organization’s ladder, McDermott could spend time in Texas with the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks and the Triple-A Sugar Land Skeeters before getting to the big leagues.
Wherever it is, he’s going to a winning organization. The Astros were 2017 World Series champions and were runners-up in 2019. They won American League West Division titles three straight years from 2017-19.
“It’s huge for me. I think anyone that plays wants to win. To go into an organization that already has a winning culture built around it is an added bonus,” McDermott said.