Clovis News

Buchanan grad Donald shines in 1st MLB game

Jason Donald was told late Monday night in the clubhouse of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers he was being called up to the major leagues for the first time.

"Then," he said, "the mad scramble, the panic, getting stuff together, calling my parents, calling other people."

Then the 3 1/2 hours of sleep.

Then the early-morning plane flight Tuesday from Ohio, to Tampa, Fla.

And then, above all, David Price.

A 6-foot-6, 225-pounder with a 97-mph fastball, 5-1 record and 2.03 ERA, the Rays' prize left-hander would greet Donald in his Cleveland Indians' debut at Tropicana Field.

The result: two singles off Price in Donald's first two at-bats, a walk and a groundout against two other pitchers and a day to remember for the 25-year-old infielder from Buchanan High.

"I'm exhausted, I'm excited, everything I can possibly be," he said from Tampa International Airport while about to board a team flight to Cleveland, where the Indians will begin an eight-game homestand tonight against Kansas City.

"Unbelievable. I'm just pretty numb," Donald said.

Equally overwhelmed and gasping for air were his parents, Tom and Debbie Donald.

A chaotic and impromptu 15-hour period had them pack their bags Monday night, drive from Clovis to San Francisco, get stopped for speeding (but not cited), catch a 1:30 a.m. red-eye to Tampa, check into a hotel and taxi to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

They arrived at 12:30 p.m., about 30 minutes before the start of the Indians' game against the hottest team in the majors.

Jason Donald, not 24 hours after wearing jersey No. 2 for a home game with Columbus, had transferred into No. 16 for Cleveland while stretching down the left-field line.

Receiving the sudden call-up because of a broken arm suffered Monday by Asdrubal Cabrera, Donald would start at shortstop.

Tom and Debbie Donald, not 24 hours after watching their son play that minor league game on the Internet from their home, positioned themselves within range -- yet not "hovering," Tom Donald said -- to enable eye contact.

It's made.

Jason, having seen mom and dad: "I wanted to cry."

Debbie, having seen son: "I started crying right away."

And Tom, having seen it all since Jason played for him as an All-State senior shortstop at Buchanan in 2003: "He gave me a head nod, and we both kind of laughed. It was a cool moment. You work your entire life for this, and the day has finally arrived. It was really indescribable."

It would get better.

Donald, batting ninth in the order, led off the third inning in his first at-bat.

Expecting heat from Price -- the first overall pick of the 2007 draft from Vanderbilt -- Donald instead received a first-pitch changeup.

"He swung out of his shoes," dad said. "And he swung right through it."

Said Jason: "I'm like, 'All right.' "

Price followed with yet another changeup, and Donald hammered it to right field for a single.

He rounded first base, returned to the bag and was welcomed into the majors by Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, who told him, "First of many."

Afterward, even after lining yet another single the opposite way off Price -- off a fastball in the fifth inning -- Donald didn't accept Pena's generous forecast and run with it.

"I never look too far ahead and I never look too far behind," he said. "I always stay in the moment, and that's what I will do here. I'll try to keep things as basic and simple as I possibly can.

Memorable Monday

Donald was sitting in the dugout Monday night, his Columbus team batting in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Durham Bulls, when a teammate emerged from the clubhouse saying Cabrera had been badly hurt in Cleveland's game at Tampa and had to leave the game.

"I tried not to pay attention to it," Donald said, "but everybody in the dugout was looking at me."

Donald would bat in the inning, get hit by a pitch and score. Then he was approached by manger Mike Sarbough, who said, "You're done."

"Then and there," Donald said, "I had a good idea something was going to happen."

Back in Clovis tracking the game on the Web, his parents weren't sure because they thought he might have been injured after getting struck in the left arm by the pitch.

Then a lifetime dream came true following the game, while sitting on a trainer's table, when Sarbough said the magic words: "You're going to the big leagues."

Donald sat speechless for a couple minutes.

"Words can't describe it," he said.

Dealt with three other prospects from Philadelphia to Cleveland last summer in a deal that sent pitcher Cliff Lee to the Phillies, Donald has no idea how long he will remain in Cleveland. But he can count on his parents following him there for the rest of the week, meaning dad -- as Buchanan's coach -- will miss the Bears' home playoff game Thursday against Central.

Cabrera, meanwhile, is expected to be lost for at least six weeks following surgery.

"I just want to play baseball," Donald said, "and God has allowed me the chance to play in the big leagues. I feel so lucky and fortunate.

"It's easy to get caught up in it and say, 'I'm in the big leagues.' At the same time, I have a job to do and need to prepare myself for the game. I'll really try to keep everything routine in a very unroutine opportunity."