"He was dragging me out of bed at six in the morning to go do Dempster workouts, whether it's [climbing] Camelback [Mountain] or ice skating or a lot of different things he dragged me out for," Samardzija said Monday. "That was great. He really showed it might be November, December but there are still things you can do for the season to improve."
On Sunday, Dempster announced he is not going to pitch in 2014 because of health reasons and to spend time with his three children. One of the most popular players in the game, the right-hander played for the Cubs from 2004-12, and finished last season with the Red Sox.
One of Dempster's children, daughter Riley, was born with DiGeorge syndrome, a disorder caused by deletions within the 22q chromosome. He created a foundation to raise awareness, and the Cubs were involved with his efforts. Samardzija also saw how Dempster could still focus on baseball despite the issues at home.
"I think it's a great lesson to be learned for everybody in that no matter what's going on in your life, when you come into this locker room and step foot on the field, everything else takes a back seat," he said. "When you get yourself in a sport, that's what it is, and you're giving everything you have to be successful and be part of the team. It's a year-round thing, and he gave his heart and soul to it. It's definitely something to learn from and I was very fortunate to have a lot of time with him and learn a lot from him."
Samardzija said he was "totally blindsided" by the news.
"Demp's a smart guy, he doesn't make any rash decisions," Samardzija said. "He understood maybe it was his time. It doesn't sound like he's totally done -- maybe he needs to take a break. I know how much of a competitor he is, so sitting around watching is probably not going to be the easiest pill to swallow. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw him back."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.