YOU KNOW THERE WILL BE SURPRISES
We sit here and figure in our heads where our favorite Red Sox or PawSox players will be to start the season. Let’s face it, it’s fun to speculate and it helps the frigid winter months pass by. You could have been a “real good thinker” and there is no way you could have predicted the success that Darnell McDonald would enjoy in 2010. An extremely likeable guy, presumably signed to provide the PawSox with a modicum of leadership and some at bats in the outfield. After all, the former number one pick had only “cups of coffee” in the Bigs. Why would 2010 be different? I don’t know why, but it was. McDonald earned a promotion early in the Spring and rode out the rest of the season with Boston, aiding the injury riddled Sox.
We were in Rochester when D-Mac got the call. In fact the night before, Dan Hoard and I were sitting in some crummy restaurant, eating dinner and the waitress brought us a round of beers. “These are from that gentleman, over there”. she said as she pointed over to the bar. Darnell McDonald was sitting there, alone eating his dinner. We waved to thank him and he waved back. Less than 24 hours later, he was the toast of Boston. Darnell recalled the moment he was promoted. “You’re shocked when you get that call to the Big Leagues. We were sitting in the restaurant in beautiful Rochester, New York the night before and the next day, I’m out of there. I was excited to be a part of the Red Sox coming into Spring Training. Then I got the opportuinity as early as I got it. It was unexpected, but a dream come true for me. You can’t even describe what it feels like to play at Fenway Park.”
McDonald, a veteran had enough experience and savvy to relish his success. He says he didn’t get caught up in looking over shoulder to see if anyone was gaining on him. “I enjoy every day. That’s one thing that I’ve learned throughout the years. I know it’s a business. I try to work hard and be prepared every day”
In a season filled with struggles for the undermanned PawSox, D-Mac provided the high point for our entourage. After a nondescript game against the Red Wings, we huddled around manager Torey Lovullo’s laptop computer to watch the rest of the Red Sox game. Darnell had already made a great first impression. In the bottom of the eighth he hit a game-tying two run homer, pinch hitting for Josh Reddick. In the ninth, Darnell lofted one off the Green Monster, bringing in the winning run. While he tried to avoid being trampled by Kevin Youkilis and the rest of his new teammates in the jubilant aftemath, his Pawtucket brethren erupted, high-fiving and hugging, celebrating, as if they were there. D-Mac was touched by the PawSox celebration, hundreds of miles away. “When you’re as little kid, playing wiffle ball in the back yard, those are the scenarios that you imagine…for it to happen to me at Fenway Park, with the great fans we have here…it was unbelievable.” Immediately, Dustin Pedroia tagged him with a nickname, paying homage to a former Detroit Pistons standout. “He’s the Microwave. No more Vinnie Johnson. He heats up and provides instant offense.”
With a year in “the Nation” under his belt, Darnell McDonald is vying for a spot on the Red Sox roster. Common sense dictates that he and Mike Cameron will be the extra outfielders on the Sox roster. McDonald takes nothing for granted. “I’m just going to try to earn a job, be ready to go. The only thing that has changed is my level of excitement. To be able to come back and see a lot of familiar faces and just get going.”
He won’t take anyone by surprise this year. Red Sox Nation knows Darnell McDonald.