I don’t care if you are a player, manager, coach, trainer or even a broadcaster in the minor leagues. We are all in it together. Long bus rides, crummy coffee, fast food meals. The whole deal. We all have a hope. If anyone denies it, they are lying to you. We all want to get to the Major Leagues. When one of us does, it’s special.
On Tuesday, Josh Reddick and Darnell McDonald were noticably missing from our PawSox entourage. They were called up to Boston to replace Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury, both on the disabled list. A Reddick callup is inevitable. Gifted beyond belief and just 23 years old, Reddick was the last man cut by the Red Sox at Spring Training. It’s a no-brainer. 31 year old McDonald, on the other hand, gambled a bit when he signed with Boston. He has now played for 7 of the 14 teams in the Internaational League. The Sox have Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall on their roster as reserves and guys like Reddick and Ryan Kalish lurking in the minors. The gamble paid off in a big way on Tuesday.
Our trip to Rochester (one of McDonalds’ former teams) began with us eating in the same lousy restaurant on our first night in town, and ended up with “D-Mac” becoming the toast of the town in Boston. McDonald, one of the nicest guys around, brings good karma. When asked by reporters before the game in the Fenway clubhouse, who’d play outfield for Pawtucket with he and Reddick in the “show”, he stoically replied, “Mike Roose, our strength coach.” Although he was kidding, he added “He says he can swing a bat.” When I relayed the story to Roose, a Pawtucket native and a veteran of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was all smiles.
The Red Sox fell behind early to Texas, and trailing 6-2, Reddick hit a ball to the opposite field that Josh Hamilton misplayed. It brought home two runs. That was awesome, but there will be many days like that down the road for Reddick. McDonald came on as a pinch hitter in the eighth and promptly tagged a two run home run to tie the game. In the interim, after a disappointing 4-3 loss, PawSox players and staff were showering and preparing for the nights’ ride to Allentown, Pa. As word spread that McDonald had provided the Sox with that lift, there were smiles and high fives all around. The consensus was summed up by hitting coach, Gerald Perry. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”
Little did we know that Darnell wasn’t through. Tied at 6, the Sox loaded the bases in the ninth and with two outs, McDonald came to the plate. In the thirties and forties, families might have gathered around the radio to listen to Bob Hope or Jack Benny. In the sixties, they watched Ed Sullivan on TV. In the year 2010, our “family” was gathered around Torey Lovullos’ laptop to watch the feed of the game. Torey, Perry, Rich Sauveur, the training staff, Alan Embree, Joe Nelson, Dan and I crammed into the tiny office and cheered as Jason Varitek drew a walk, setting the stage for Darnell. Nelson was confident in his teammate. “No way he doesn’t come through!” McDonald immediately rewarded that confidence, and in the process became a houisehold name in Red Sox Nation. He lofted a drive off the Green Monster that scored the game-winner, snapping the Boston skid. He was mobbed by his grateful teammates as the celebration began. Back in Rochester, we were cheering wildly and high fiving each other. Lovullo had a paternal smile on his face. We got to watch as one of us made a difference.
It might not sound like much to outsiders, we are used to the steady parade of PawSox players becoming stars in Boston. Let me tell you, for all of us, it was anything but ordinary. Our guy, Darnell McDonald of the Pawtucket Red Sox hit it big!