He aims for stars, is not far away

Published: Friday, Jul. 12, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4C
Last Modified: Friday, Jul. 12, 2013 - 6:25 am

OAKLAND – Much fuss has been made about A's third baseman Josh Donaldson being left off the American League All-Star team, especially since he has been a leading man on a powerhouse club.

But the one person not making a big deal about it is Donaldson. Maybe that's because he had a similar experience with how fickle baseball can be.

Before the 2007 Major League Baseball draft, Donaldson, a catcher and third baseman at Auburn, was told by scouts he could expect to go late in the first round. That was significant because the first round was being televised for the first time.

Donaldson invited friends and family over for the big event. "There were 30 or 40 people here – family, friends, coaches, his teammates. And we sat around glued to the TV," recalled his mother, Lisa French.

The first round went by without Donaldson's name being called. The A's had the 26th pick and "wanted to draft Josh," general manager Billy Beane said, but they were thinking second round.

A little while later, the Chicago Cubs took him with the 48th pick.

That day, Donaldson said, taught him something about baseball and life.

"It's OK to dream large. Dream as big as you want," he said. "If you put in the work, the dream will work itself out. I believe if you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, well, you're still in outer space."

You could say that Donaldson, who has a .313 average, 15 homers and 58 RBIs, has made it to the moon. And the stars aren't out of reach. Especially when you consider that this is his first full big-league season and that he's only 27.

What a change from a year ago, when he was preparing himself for the possibility that the A's would let him go. He was stuck at Triple-A Sacramento after hitting .153 with one homer and seven RBIs in 28 games with the A's before the All-Star break.

Acquired by Oakland from the Cubs in 2008 as part of a six-player deal, Donaldson came to spring training last season hoping to make the team as a backup catcher.

However, during winter ball in the Dominican Republic before last season, Donaldson played third base just to show A's manager Bob Melvin that he could.

Then on the first day of camp last season, Melvin told Donaldson "we're going to try to get you a couple of games at third base," the player said. Scott Sizemore was supposed to be the A's third baseman until he went down because of a season-ending injury early in camp.

Donaldson spent hours with infield instructor Phil Garner and third-base coach Mike Gallego, both former big-league infielders, learning the hot corner.

"He's not satisfied just to have made it in the big leagues," Garner said. "He wants to be as good as he can be."

Although Donaldson made the Opening Day roster in 2012, he didn't hit a lick and got sent down. He was promoted again, didn't hit again, and went back down.

On Aug. 14, the A's called him back for a third time when Brandon Inge went on the disabled list. This time Donaldson hit and played vacuum-like defense.

He also was one of many key players who pushed the A's to the A.L. West title. Five months later, he reported to spring training as the incumbent third baseman.

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Read more articles by John Hickey



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