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April 22, 2010

McDonald a star long before Fenway

In this age of Ponzi schemes, bank-executive bonuses and high-finance fraud, it's hard to find people who get what they deserve. Even rarer are people who deserve what they receive.

But anyone watching the final two innings of Boston's 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers Monday night, and again last night, witnessed one of the rarest spectacles of all: someone earning what they receive.

Following more than a decade of minor-league whistle stops with an occasional call up to the big leagues, Darnell McDonald not only powered the Red Sox to a much-needed victory, the 31-year-old journeyman walked off the field with the kind of satisfaction every young boy dreams of.

The kind of satisfaction that comes with hitting a game-tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth and a game-winning, ninth-inning single off the Green Monster. That all on a day in which McDonald woke up in Rochester, N.Y.

It was a night McDonald, who homered again last night, will never forget, and the kind of night I thought he was destined for when he graduated from high school in 1997 and signed a blockbuster contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

In the past dozen years, however, McDonald played just 68 games in the majors — 47 of them last year with Cincinnati — hitting .231 with two homers and 11 RBIs. He's had to work like few others to find his way to Fenway Park. Before beginning this season with Boston's Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, McDonald had played 1,328 games in the minor leagues, including 877 at Triple-A.

I've been fortunate in my career to have covered some exceptional players. Guys like NBA star Chauncey Billups — who I said during his sophomore year at George Washington High School would turn into a lottery pick — and 2003 American League Cy Young winner Roy Halladay.

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