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Home » April 2010 Game CommentsApril 2010 » Old McDonald From the Farm

Old McDonald From the Farm

What was the most memorable sound Darnell McDonald heard today?

Torey Lovullo telling him to pack up his gear because they want him in Boston. While waiting to board a flight from Rochester to Boston, the amplified yet still indistinct voices of airport personnel counting off seating zones so achingly slow (The ticket says row 11 with an aisle seat, why is it Zone 4?).

As the 1997 first-round draft pick made his way from triple-A to MLB for the fourth time in his career, what did he taste?

Bitterness at first, perhaps, thinking of that week in July 2007 that the Twins gave him a shot and he went 1-for-10 over the course of four games. Or the sweetness of 2009 when he finally made a big league roster out of Spring Training. He had the opportunity to stay in the Reds system, but McDonald signed with the Red Sox instead. For a career minor leaguer even the off-brand airline snacks must taste like a meal from a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Scents are supposed to evoke powerful memories, tied as it to a more primitive part of the brain, the limbic system.

The smells from the sausage vendor’s cart near the players’ entrance. The terpene tang of pine tar smells stronger in the big leagues, like a smelling salt urging the bat to wake up. But the odors of locker rooms from high school to Fenway are pretty much the same, whether the guys playing make minimum wage or millions: the air permeated with years of practice and repetition that it takes to be a success in a game of failure.

Yes, some things about baseball are the same be it Little League or the bigs. Yet there are sights one won’t see at the sandlot.

A name plate with “Darnell McDonald” and a Red Sox logo above a locker replete with crisp home whites (Fifty-four, hope nobody thinks I’m a reliever or something...). A knuckleballer who surpassed Cy Young with 2,728 and two-thirds innings pitched for the Red Sox. The tension between two All-Stars, one a struggling superstar designated hitter, the other a corner infielder striving for more playing time, which is immediately dissipated because they are above all teammates. Pinch-hitting and gazing at a wall 37 feet, 2 inches tall. A ball clearing that wall to tie the score 6-6.

McDonald didn’t get the silent treatment. The high fives, shoulder claps, and butt slaps McDonald got when he tied the score in the eighth were but a prelude.

Two men on, two out, the outfielder felt a fastball whiz by for a strike. It help him set his timing. Like the thousands of times he did before, through grade school, high school, all the endless minor league levels, he clutched his bat and unloaded.

The collective intake of breath before the thundering crash of the ball against the wall. The taste of a long-awaited victory. The smell of fresh-shorn turf as the first wave of celebrating teammates tackle you. The onslaught of more and more players rushing to join the pile on (Who is this guy? We were talking about tattoos just this afternoon at BP...). A warm congratulatory handshake from the skipper.

Welcome (back) to the majors, Darnell McDonald.

Game 14: April 20, 2010
6H: Darren O’Day (1)
BS: Darren Oliver (1)
L: Frank Francisco (2-3)
2B: Joaquin Arias (2), Nelson Cruz (3)
WinRed Sox
7W: Jonathan Papelbon (1-1)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (5), Josh Reddick (1), Jason Varitek (2)
HR: Jeremy Hermida (3), Darnell McDonald (1)

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