Prospect Donald relishes 'amazing' day
Wearing No. 90, infielder smashes pair of three-run homers
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Cole Hamels had his "moment" in 2004, when he fanned Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Tony Clark at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla. Michael Bourn endured an embarrassing professional debut a year later at the same venue, when a lost ball in the sun instead found his face.
Phillies infield prospect Adrian Cardenas laughed as he recalled booting the first ball hit his way in a Grapefruit League game, at Progress Energy Park in St. Petersburg. While Sunday's game wasn't Phillies infield prospect Jason Donald's first appearance in a Major League exhibition, it will be the one he refers to when describing highlights from his first experience with the big boys.Wearing No. 90, the third-highest jersey number in Dunedin, Fla., Donald pounded two three-run home runs in a 15-7 rout of Toronto at Knology Park, giving the 2006 second-round pick his moment. "The first one, I don't think I felt my feet running around the bases," Donald said of the shot off Toronto's Brandon League. "Any time you're a Minor League guy and you come [to a game], you don't know if you're going to get in. It's surreal. This kind of stuff doesn't happen too often. To get the opportunity to do this is pretty amazing. I don't think anyone in my family will believe me." The proof is in the box score. The only player left in the visiting clubhouse and still in uniform, Donald excitedly described the events of his attendance at Sunday's game. He arrived for the drills at the Carpenter Complex and was told by Minor League field coordinator Bill Dancy to head to Dunedin with the team. Typically, a few high-numbered jerseys attend road games in case they are needed. With that comes no guarantee of playing time. But in the bottom of the fifth, manager Charlie Manuel sent Donald in to replace Jimmy Rollins. Donald's three-run homer off League highlighted a five-run sixth. He duplicated the feat in the eighth off John Parrish, also in a five-run frame. He said he hadn't had a two-homer game since he played for Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif. "That's fantastic for him," Manuel said. "That's good for him. The kid's a good hitter. He reminds me of [Craig] Biggio. He's got the same kind of makeup. He talks like him. He plays like him."
Donald said he relished such a comparison to the former Astros second baseman, who concluded a 20-year career in 2007 with 3,060 hits and a likely ticket to the Hall of Fame."The first time [Manuel] called me Biggio, I thought he just didn't know my name," Donald said. "I'll take that comparison. Craig Biggio was a great player. He'll probably be in the Hall of Fame one day. If I could be half of him, that would be pretty great." Donald's next challenge is to have more people in the organization remember his name, and that's happening quickly. He hit a combined .304 with 12 homers, 31 doubles, eight triples and 71 RBIs at Class A Lakewood and Class A Clearwater, and is ticketed for Double-A Reading. His future with the Phillies, though still at least two years away, could be daunting with Chase Utley and Rollins entrenched in the middle infield -- not that he's thinking about that. "They're two unbelievable players, and probably the two best guys at their respective positions," Donald said. "I've always said if I can just take care of what I need to do, everything will take care of itself. I like being in the Phillies' organization. It's honestly something I try not to think about. I hope I made a good impression on the brass and on Charlie." He's probably right.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.