By Judith Kahn
Emil DeAndreis teaches English at the College of San Mateo during the day, coaches
baseball at Lowell High School in the afternoon, and is a published author by night.
DeAndreis, 31, has had a passion for baseball ever since he was child. He considers
baseball his identity, and his dream has always been to play as a left-handed
pitcher on a professional team. Unfortunately, his plan was derailed in 2009 when he
was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which was about the same time he was about
to sign a contract with a professional baseball team in Belgium called the Merchant Cats.
Although he was not able to reach his dream because of his diagnosis, his love and
passion for baseball and his involvement with the game continues,
and has maybe grown.
Now, he helps others reach their dreams.
“I have shed the skin of being a professional player and my priority now is to help others
live the dream of a professional career,” DeAndreis said.
According to Lowell’s head baseball coach, Daryl Semien, the team is
lucky to have DeAndreis.
“DeAndreis is one of the best people I ever saw coach. He gives out great instructions.
He is completely relatable to the kids, but worldly.”
Lowell has won five straight city baseball championships (2013-2017) under the guidance
of coaches Semien and DeAndreis, including a victory over George Washington
High School on May 10.
DeAndreis’ love for baseball began when he was a child growing up in San Francisco.
He lived in the Sunset District and attended Lowell High School, where he was the
league’s most valuable player (MVP) and pitcher of the year in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
He has great nostalgia for West Sunset Playground and Big Rec. in Golden Gate Park,
where Lowell plays their home games.
Both of DeAndreis’ parents were musicians and encouraged him to try new things, which
exposed him to much. One summer he went to culinary camp and another summer he
attended a baseball camp. His father was a great sports fan and they often
would go to Oakland A’s games together. One of DeAndreis’ favorite memories was
listening to swing bands on 960 AM radio after the ball game.
During his senior year at Lowell, his coach scheduled a pre-season tournament in Hilo,
Hawaii, at the University of Hawaii. The coach at the university watched DeAndreis
play and asked him if he would consider playing Division 1 baseball for
the Hilo Vulcans.
DeAndreis was thrilled and attended the university from 2004-2008, majoring
in English. During his junior year, he pitched more games than anyone else on the team.
Until diagnosed with arthritis, DeAndreis was on Cloud Nine, living with his Belgium
host family, earning $1,200 a month and being a pitcher for the Merchants Cats.
Since the arthritis causes deterioration and incapacitation of the joints, he realized
becoming a professional baseball was no longer a reality.
At first, he was in denial. The disease meant more than swallowing
a pill, it meant swallowing a new life.
Once accepting his fate, he decided writing would be cathartic and channeled all of the
energy he put toward baseball toward writing. It consumed his life.
“Baseball taught me to be tenacious. There is a lot of rejection in writing. It is 90 percent
rejection,” DeAndreis noted.
DeAndreis has now written several books, all of which have received favorable reviews.
Mike Krukow, a former major league pitcher and a broadcaster for the SF Giants, had
this to say about DeAndreis’ most recent book, “Hard To Grip:”
“It is a vibrant depiction of a baseball player who finds his way despite losing his
ability to play the game he loves. Emil is a total gamer and a wonderful writer.
Grab some time, and enjoy,” Krukow said.
Tim Flannery, the former third base coach for the SF Giants, commented, “Emil’s passion
for the game brings me back to childhood. I can smell the ballpark, the grass, the dirt.
His love for the game is felt on every page and is contagious to us ‘last of the old dogs.’”
Dallas Braden, a former Oakland Athletics’ pitcher and baseball commentator, said the
book was an honest portrayal of the struggle to become a major league player and to
overcome medical hardships.
“Hard To Grip” is a fun and honest look inside the struggles faced and love needed to
chase a dream. The book also provides great insight into the mindset needed to
overcome extraordinary circumstances that would see ordinary people crumble,”
DeAndreis is now working on a new book, which he says will be amusing.
In 2010, Lowell’s coach asked DeAndreis if he would coach at Lowell. One of the
greatest challenges that DeAndreis found in coaching is that student athletes often want
to achieve success without fully grasping how to earn it. He feels the best qualities a
coach can have is to show understanding and to develop trust with the students.
For DeAndreis, it is important to teach the students to be accountable.
He feels baseball teaches one to be humble, confident and determined. He enjoys
coaching and says the students keeps him smart, on his toes and make him feel young.
DeAndreis said he considers Cliff Coleman, who was a coach of the Oakland Oaks, a
summer team he played for during college, an outstanding coach. He recalls the team
was a melting pot of inner city kids and private school peninsula kids, and remembers
how Coleman effortlessly juggled the different personalities, backgrounds and skill
levels of a talented and eclectic team.
Coleman taught them empathy, and indirectly made him love the game more. He even
worked graveyard shifts and sometimes coached on little or no sleep.
DeAndreis remarked that the rheumatoid arthritis has taught him to accept his condition
and to learn coping skills, which have helped him adapt to his new way of life. In
retrospect, he has realized over the years that developing a sense of humor is
an important, and effective, skill.
In 2013, he came across an ad for the Arthritis Foundation’s 5k walk-run.
After much hesitation and urging from his wife, he decided to join the run. When the
race ended, he said he felt good not to be running from the disease, but for a change to
be running with it.