Homewood Science Center FS June 18 – July 17 2019

It’s not clear whether Demi Chaney chose baseball or baseball chose her. 

It is clear that the 11-year-old Homewood girl is making her way in the traditionally all-male sport.

She recently was invited to an elite baseball camp for girls sponsored by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball. The Trailblazer program in April is by invitation, and only 96 girls from the U.S. and Canada get to participate. The camp includes instruction by current and former professional ballplayers. 

Demi Chaney, 11, left, of Homewood with her father and coach, Fred Chaney. Demi is a rising baseball star and has been invited to an elite camp for girls sponsored by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

The experience will be an unusual opportunity for Demi to play ball with other girls. Demi has been playing baseball since she was 7. With rare exceptions, she has always played with and against boys. 
“Girls like Demi have always been the only girl on their team,” said her father, Fred Chaney. “She started playing with her brothers.”

Demi Chaney, 11, of Homewood, prepares to bat during a baseball game. She plays with several traveling teams, and she is usually the only girl. (Provided photo)

Demi is the third of four Chaney children, and her oldest brother, Ty, started playing the sport when she was a baby. Another brother, Torii, is also a rising star in the youth baseball world, playing in a program sponsored by the Chicago White Sox.

The Chaneys are a baseball family. Chaney coaches teams and players from youth to college level. Torii and Demi are on a traveling team, and the whole family traverses the country for games and tournaments. 

Chaney began coaching when Ty first started playing, so Demi was immersed in baseball before she began playing. 

“I do so much training. She’s with me all the time,” he said. “She’s around the game constantly. Her brothers are working with her, trying to help her get better.”

For Demi, being part of a baseball family, it was the natural sport to pursue.

“I kind of wanted to play softball,” she said. “But since my brothers play baseball, I mostly wanted to play baseball.”

Actually, she was drafted to play, Chaney said. The boys would often need a player to make their pickup teams even. Demi was pressed into action.

For the first few years, she seemed to be a good but not outstanding player, Chaney said. She is a pitcher and has always had a good arm, but she was not a standout hitter.

“Then there was one day she turned this corner. It came out of nowhere,” he said. “She started becoming like this dominant force. Something just clicked, and she started hitting the ball so hard.”

Her immersion in the sport has continued, including participation on both local recreational teams and on traveling teams. Last year, she played on the Firebirds in the Flossmoor Baseball and Softball league.
She was a member of a traveling team with Torii and she occasionally got called to play on the Gators, an all-girl team based in Humbolt Park.

Unless the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts her plans, the Trailblazer camp will be the start of another summer full of baseball for Demi.

One new playing opportunity will be an all-girls team Chaney is developing as part of the Flossmoor Baseball Academy he founded in association with Flossmoor Baseball and Softball. He is inviting area girls interested in participating to contact him at 
[email protected].

The academy will be an opportunity for kids to hone their baseball skills and learn life skills, Chaney said. 

“I use baseball as a catalyst to really help kids in a lot of different areas, building self esteem, self confidence, social skills and leadership skills,” he said. “I just want the stage to be broadened beyond baseball.”

Demi said she is excited about the Trailblazer camp and other opportunities baseball will present this summer. Past that, she will just see where baseball takes her.

“Right now, we just keep working to get better, keep having great experiences,” she said. “Baseball has done a lot for me and my family.”

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