Darnell McDonald likes to joke that if he had accepted a scholarship offer to play running back at the University of Texas, football fans would have never heard of Cedric Benson.
After rushing for 6,121 yards and 83 touchdowns at Cherry Creek High School in Colorado, McDonald was recruited to be the heir apparent to Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams at Texas. If Darnell had suited up for the Longhorns, Benson probably would have gone to Texas Tech and McDonald might be in the NFL.
But after being a first round draft pick by the Baltimore Orioles in 1997, Darnell chose to play baseball instead of football.
Red Sox nation is grateful.
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
After McDonald’s dramatic pinch-hit home run and game-winning single for Boston on Tuesday night, the overwhelming sentiment in the PawSox clubhouse was that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer or more-deserving guy. I was among a handful of players and coaches who watched the video of Darnell’s game-winning hit streaming live on Torey Lovullo’s laptop, and the celebration in the drab visiting manager’s office in Rochester was nearly as raucous as the pandemonium at Fenway Park.
Darnell’s coaches and teammates appreciate his arduous journey to the big leagues. This is the 10th straight year that McDonald has spent at least part of the season in the International League and Pawtucket is his 7th I.L. team.
“I tell people that I’m tired of that league,” Darnell said with a laugh when I profiled him in January (here’s a link to the story). “I know all of the clubhouse guys, a lot of the fans that you see every year, and that’s a good thing that baseball has done for me – it’s allowed me to establish a lot of friendships all over the world. It doesn’t hurt to see familiar faces in different places that you go, but hopefully I won’t spend too much time in the International League this year.”
One night after going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts at a mostly-empty minor league ballpark, McDonald etched his name into Boston’s sports history with one of the greatest debuts in Red Sox history. Imagine how it will be remembered if Tuesday’s win helps to reverse the Red Sox sinking fortunes.
His wife Cynara was there to see it, and Darnell now has a great story to share with his two daughters – 4-year-old Jiana and 10-week-old Zuri.
It’s the story of how it took their dad 12 years to become an overnight sensation.
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The PawSox wasted a great pitching performance by Adam Mills in a 4-3 loss at Rochester on Tuesday.
After Mills walked the first batter he faced, he proceeded to retire 14 batters in a row and left the game with a 3-0 lead after five innings.
Unfortunately for Pawtucket, Kris Johnson promptly allowed 3 runs in the 6th, and Ramon Ramirez gave up the game-winning run in the 8th. Johnson’s ERA swelled to 10.57.
The PawSox 9-day road trip moves to Lehigh Valley for the final two games. Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to make his third and final rehab start for Pawtucket on Wednesday night at 7:05. In his first two outings, Daisuke has pitched 11 scoreless innings while only walking one batter.
I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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