I’m a tad late getting to this, and many of you have probably heard it by now. However, I wanted to share this little story with any of our readers who haven’t heard it. It’s one of those that will pull at your heart strings and maybe even give you a little perspective.
Last week, Toronto Blue Jays infielder John McDonald lost his father, Jack McDonald, to liver cancer. From what I read, Jack was a very well-liked person and a respected official for baseball, basketball, and football in the Connecticut area. John and his father were extremely close, and before Jack died he told his son to hit his next homer for him. John told his dad that that wouldn’t be easy, considering at the time of their conversation he had hit only 13 home runs in his 12-year career.
On Saturday, John returned to the Blue Jays after an 11-day bereavement leave. He appeared in his first game back on Sunday, which just so happens to have been Father’s Day. Skipper Cito Gaston put him in the game in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement. When John got up to bat in the bottom half of the inning — his first at-bat since returning from being with his family — you can probably guess what he did. He belted a homer over the left field wall and rounded the bases pumping his fist and fighting back tears. Here’s what John McDonald had to say about the homer:
“We had talked about the type of player I am before I came back,” McDonald said, “and the fact that I don’t hit a lot of home runs. He said, ‘Hit your next one for me.’ So the fact that I got that out of the way quick was nice.”
The whole “hit a homer for me” thing is probably the most overused phrase in baseball. It’s the epitome of a sports cliche. Moments like these make it truly remarkable. McDonald has an average of just over one home run per year over the course of his career. To be able to hit a home run in his first at-bat back from dealing with something like that is nothing shy of amazing. His teammates surrounded him when he got to the dugout and, on a day when the Blue Jays lost, made it clear that winning games is not something that’s always important.
We cried on each others’ shoulder for a good 30 seconds,” teammate Vernon Wells told reporters in Toronto. “When it went out, it was instant goosebumps. It kind of puts everything in perspective on whether you had a good day or a bad day at the plate or in the field. Wins and losses don’t really matter at that point. That’s one of the most special moments that I’ve gotten to see in this game. It couldn’t happen to a better person. I think that was the happiest loss that any of us have encountered in our professional careers.”