SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- It’s nearing playoff time in high school baseball. At Horizon High School, the Huskies, led by one of the state’s top prospects, a do-it-all slugger named Kody Huff, are gearing up for a run at a seventh state championship. First-year head coach Jeff Urlaub barks out practice commands, Huff’s drives in the cage draw ooohs and ahhs from adoring teammates, wind whips through the half-dozen or so retired jerseys hanging on the outfield wall and senior Collin Demas can’t stop smiling. Every red-blooded American baseball player loves being on the field playing ball - but it’s fair to say Demas appreciates it a little more.
“Oh yeah, for sure.” Demas said after practice. “Growing up as a kid and playing baseball as almost an every day thing, I kind of took it for granted. This season, I was able to learn to take it day by day and enjoy every second of it.”
Demas, Horizon's senior captain and first baseman, is a cancer survivor.
Diagnosed in January of 2018, Demas spent last spring and summer in a place a high school junior wouldn't imagine being. He was in a hospital bed battling leukemia.
“When I first heard the news, I forgot about everything in my life – baseball, school,” said Demas. “All my attention went to my health, but I had to keep a positive attitude no matter what. I knew I was going to get through it no matter what I had to do.”
Baseball and school without question became afterthoughts during Demas’s recovery, but it was the dream to someday return to the baseball field and the golf course that motivated Demas every long day and night he spent in a hospital bed. The unwavering support of his family, friends and teammates also helped.
Demas’ battle also caught the eye of some of Arizona’s top high school and professional athletes.
D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb invited Demas and his family to Chase Field while All-State football players Pinnacle’s Spencer Rattler and Notre Dame Prep’s Jake Smith voiced their support on social media.
Demas’s rock though through it all was his best friend and star teammate, Huff.
“I can’t even imagine what it was like to go through that,” said Huff. “I couldn’t even try to put myself in his shoes. The best thing I could do was just to be there emotionally for support, and then physically go visit him as much as I could.”
“It was truly amazing,” said Demas about the support of Huff and his teammates. “They would come and hang out with me after practice – just come over for an hour and watch TV. That would make me feel like a normal kid again.”
Thanks to modern technology, even when Huff and their friends couldn’t be by Demas’ side, they were at least in his ear.
“Yeah, we got him a PS4,” said Huff. “That was a lot of fun too.”
“They would all hop and play video games with me,” said Demas. “I would ask them how practice was going and how the games were going.”
By fall 2018, Demas was cancer free and cleared to return to the golf course and eventually, the Horizon baseball team.
“Once he turned the corner and the hair started coming back, he started getting a little more physical,” said Urlaub. “And I was like, 'okay, we’re back in business here.'”
When it came to Demas, Urlaub didn’t stop there.
“The leadership he provides and what he’s gone though, how could he not be captain?” said Urlaub.
Demas was not only a Huskie baseball player once again. Now, he was also a captain of the team.
“Just to be able to feel that leadership, and to know that he was trusting me to do the right thing was amazing,” said Demas.
Currently, the captain and his mates are setting sail towards the postseason and a possible state championship. And don’t tell Demas any goal is too large or any dream is too big.
“Never give up on anything,” said Demas. “Anything’s possible. I know people say it all the time but if you just keep a positive attitude towards things and keep looking forward and don’t look back, you’ll eventually get through anything.”