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Arizona baseball: Wildcats fortunate to land Cody Deason

Arizona's best freshman pitcher wasn't supposed to be in Tucson.

Cody Deason pitches vs. UCLA
Cody Deason pitches vs. UCLA
Jason Bartel

Through 23 games, and two conference series, freshman Cody Deason has the best ERA of any Arizona Wildcats pitcher, posting a 0.84 mark in eight appearances (10 2/3 innings).

But he wasn't supposed to be a Wildcat.

It was July. Deason was committed to play baseball for the Oregon Ducks. And Arizona was in the middle of making a regime change.

"I actually wasn't coming here, I was actually going to the University of Oregon all the way through summer," Deason explained of his original plans to play college baseball. "Then July, I got a call from Oregon, and they had dropped me, so it kind of sucked, but I came here and it's the best decision I've ever made."

Getting dropped by Oregon like that isn't exactly a decision that Deason was expecting, but he had a quick turnaround on where he was going to end up enrolling in school in the fall.

"It was quick," Deason said of how soon after being dropped by Oregon that he heard from Jay Johnson. "It was like a three day process. Me and my dad said whatever he's doing, he's doing it right. He led Reno to a 40-win season, and I believed in that. So I followed my heart."

Deason already had a relationship with coach Johnson, as Johnson had recruited him to come to Nevada last year.

"He wanted me at UNR," Deason explained. "They were one of my visits. I really appreciated him and thought he was a really good coach. It just so happened that our paths met up again."

"He saw the potential in me, and I'm glad he took a shot, and it's good to know I got a second chance at playing ball again."

It was all about that relationship with Johnson as Deason had never even seen Arizona before deciding he would play his college ball in Tucson.

"(Andy) Lopez recruited me, but I never came here," he said. "I just committed to Oregon right after I made the visit."

As a kid who played high school ball near Santa Barbara, CA, and was about to play college ball in Eugene, was he pleased with the decision to pitch at the U of A?

"When I showed up here, I realized it was hot," Deason said. "I knew it was going to be hot. It's Arizona. A lot hotter than Eugene. And then I just looked at the campus and said this is where I can be for hopefully three years but more than likely four. So that's pretty much what I looked at."

"I appreciated the ballpark for what it was, and it's just an awesome place to be. You couldn't beat it."

A lot of freshman pitchers have struggled so far in 2016 for the Wildcats, but not Deason. And that's mostly due to his approach when he's out there pitching.

"I just try to make the game as big as it is," he said of his demeanor on the mound. "It's just a game, and we've been playing it since we've been, what, five years old, and that's how I try to keep it. Just as simple as possible."

"I think the biggest thing I've worked on is composure, and just realizing that it's just a game. At the end of the day, win or lose, we're going to come out the next day and we're going to get to play the same game we love. I don't try to change what I do for anybody. I just try to help the team win the game."

Being able to contribute as a freshman the way he has is unique too. No other freshman has as many appearances (8) as Deason.

"It's a blessing," he said about being able to pitch in that many games so early in his career. "Just to get that much trust from your coaching staff to put you out there when there's things on the line. It's just an honor to have that courage from the coaching staff to let me go out there and go day-in and day-out with this competition we get to face."

"I like to take after Bob (Dalbec)," Deason said of who on the team he emulates when he does toe the rubber. "Cuz when he gets up there, it just looks like everything's loose. I also take after (Austin) Schnabel. Every time I get in, he's high-fiving me and telling me I did a good job."

"He's a phenomenal player," Schnabel said of Deason. "I roomed with him on the last road trip, and he's just a really laid back guy, but he takes baseball very seriously. He definitely deserves to be out there and he deserves the success he's had to this point."

"He's a horse on the mound," Ryan Aguilar added about his teammate. "I like him. He throws strikes and for a freshman it seems like he's taking the pressure of D-1 baseball well. I'm really comfortable with him out there."

With one of the best pitching coaches in place in Dave Lawn, there's plenty for Arizona pitchers to look forward to and improving on as they progress through their years at Arizona.

"That's every players coach they wish they had," praised Deason of Coach Lawn. "He's one of the best I've ever been around, and he's kind of adapted that father figure around me, and I really appreciate everything about him."

When I asked coach Lawn if he saw any freshmen that were standing out from a consistency standpoint, Deason's name was the first out of his mouth, along with Austin Rubick, Michael Flynn and Alfonso Rivas.

"They need experience, and they're going to get it," Lawn said of his group of freshmen. "I like all their stuff."

The entire coaching staff was very high on Deason heading into the season, and he's proving why now. Hopefully he'll get some chances against Oregon over the next three years to stick it to them a little bit.