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If Chicago Cubs fans noticed one thing about Ryan Dempster’s 2009 season, it would probably be that he hasn’t been nearly as good as he was last year. He has had three solid starts in a row, though.

Well, there’s been something else to notice – and we’ve sort of heard about it, but not the full story – if we are paying attention. Dempster is dealing with some very heavy stuff in real life. His little girl is sick.

”I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” said Dempster, who has spent all season constantly commuting to hospitals, keeping vigil over 2-month-old Riley, consulting with surgeons, even giving blood for an operation — then checking his sleepless reality at the door every fifth day to pitch for the Cubs.

”I wouldn’t wish the person I hate most in the world to go through that,” he said, ”because I wouldn’t wish any little kid to have to go through that.”

Riley was born premature, in Arizona, before the Cubs broke spring camp. And a week later the Dempsters learned she had a rare form of DiGeorge Syndrome, in this case a missing part of a chromosome creating a condition that disrupts her natural swallowing reflex and her ability to keep food down. CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.

Can you imagine trying to discard thoughts of your little daughter every time you take the mound, knowing she’s hundreds of miles away?

”There’s anger,” he admits. ”When your daughter’s sitting there in the hospital, and she’s been in there for two months now, there’s an anger inside you because no little kid deserves that. Hopefully, by the end of this month, she’ll be home.

”But it’s like how do you not let it out? I think that’s why I was having those big innings [during an early stretch of starts], because I’d be cruising along, cruising along, and then all of a sudden I get in a situation where I get frustrated, and then I’d start thinking and getting mad at the wrong things, or getting mad at an umpire not calling a strike.”

Dempster makes no excuses, though, and he’s actually got a tremendous attitude about the whole situation.

”It’s been a grind,” he said. ”At the same time, we’re lucky she’s ours. Think how many kids out there would have something like that and never get the right treatment.”

If I wasn’t already rooting for Dempster, you know, due to the whole Cubs thing, I’d be pulling hard for him – and his family – now.

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