By Brian Stites

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – As the Bay Area prep baseball season winds down, Lowell High School assistant coach Emil DeAndreis is hoping to carry the momentum of one job to the next.

DeAndreis always thought watching one of his pitchers grind through a San Francisco league game was stressful — that was until he began marketing his new book “Hard to Grip.”

“Thankfully I can’t see how many books are sold, otherwise I’d be up all night clicking refresh on Amazon,” DeAndreis said.

It’s a tale about how rheumatoid arthritis robbed him of his baseball dream.

“Within one month of my last pitch in college I was a cripple.”

Long before he began coaching the Cardinals, DeAndreis once was their best pitcher. Over a decade ago he celebrated winning three straight section titles at AT&T Park and grabbed the attention of big league scouts.

“I was approached by a scout from the Cincinnati Reds, and was given his card. I remember holding that card in my wallet for a couple years after that,” he said of the quick meeting. “In my book, I wrote how that was the time when baseball became my ID.”

But DeAndreis never identified himself with major league baseball, instead he accepted an offer from the University of Hawaii-Hilo – a division one team on the wrong end of many lopsided games.

“Some games we lost by 20 runs,” he said of the humbling experience. “I remember their coaches giving us a pep talk afterwards… which is really uncommon in sports.”

His career with the Vulcans yielded an earned run average over five, but he wasn’t ready to put down the rosin bag after the 2008 season.

Instead of returning home, DeAndreis found a baseball gig in Belgium. It wasn’t enough to make a decent living, but it kept him playing the game he loved.

“It was a couple thousand a month,” he said of the contract offer. “Maybe a meal every once in a while.”

That’s when the grim chapters of “Hard to Grip” begin.

A month after signing the Belgian contract, DeAndreis was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that causes pain and swelling in joints and is typically found in older patients.

“I started feeling a burning sensation in my elbow,” he said of the initial symptoms.

The pain became so severe DeAndreis says he couldn’t grip a baseball or walk up a flight of stairs. He manages the disorder today with an injection, but was forced to quit baseball almost immediately.

“The book is about being a 23-year-old male in the physical prime of his life suddenly coming to terms with having the body of an old woman,” he said.

DeAndreis gave up one passion to pursue another. He’s currently an English professor at the College of San Mateo, and helped lead Lowell to another San Francisco section title on May 10.

Cardinals head coach Daryl Semien appreciates having a well-rounded person on his staff.

Just how many high school baseball coaches are also published authors?

“Just the one I work with,” replied Semien.

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