. While he keeps to himself and is a bit introverted, his attitude, work ethic and character are pretty good. He just lacks the passion that you like to see, though beneath the surface, he is a winner with a cool, calm demeanor that allows him to perform well in the clutch.McDonald may be the best athlete in Colorado history. He rushed for over 6,000 yards in leading Cherry Creek High School to three straight Colorado State Championships. In the 1996 game, he darted and danced for 333 yards and five touchdowns in the state championship game.
- Darnell is intelligent, soft-spoken and low-key
He was going to play both football and baseball at Texas until the Orioles intervened, signing him for $1.9 million.
His classmates in high school selected him as the best-dressed person in the 1997 graduating class.
ATHLETIC FAMILYHis father, Donzell, played in the Pirates organization.
After his career peaked in the Pirates' organization, Donzell watched his brother Ben play in the NBA and his brother James play in the NFL.Darnell's father was also a clerk at a national brokerage firm.Darnell's brother, Donzell, Jr., played minor league baseball for many years. He had brief cups of java with the Yankees (2001) and Royals (2002). For several years, Donzell has played independent league pro ball and in the Mexican League.
And their cousin, James McDonald, played for the Pirates and was with the Cubs, along with Darnell, at 2014 Spring Training camp.Darnell learned respect for himself and others from his divorced parents, Don and Nina, a social worker. He spent time with both parents while growing up in modest Glendale, Colorado.A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, McDonald always had time for his admirers. "He's a strong Christian, never that big-daddy type around campus," his high school coach, Mark Johnson, said. "It was unbelievable how people looked up to him, but he'd still go up and say 'hi' to a freshman and they'd just die. He was that type of kid. I consider him a second son."He works hard. And he hustles. He is really a quiet young man who is trying his best to get the most out of his abilitiesDarnell's mother, Nina, died in October 1999. It was very unexpected. She had a heart attack and was gone quickly. She was only 42 years old. It knocked Darnell's life completely off-balance.
"I was very close to my mother," he says. "It was a big blow to me. It probably would have been a little different if my mother had cancer or something that had been inevitable that it was going to happen. But for my brother and me, it just came like something out of the blue."
Darnell has a tattoo of his Mom's face on his right shoulder. He had told his Mom that he would get to the big leagues, that he would stick with baseball.Growing up, Darnell said his favorite football player was Bo Jackson. And his favorite baseball player? That would be Bo Jackson, again. "I wish I could have been like him and played both sports," McDonald said with a laugh. "But I'm very happy playing baseball."In 2001, while playing for the Rochester Red Wings, the speedy McDonald was matched up in a race against a 10-year-old gelding named Zippy Chippy in a promotion. The horse beat Darnell to the finish line.
"It was actually supposed to be 40 yards, and they changed it to 50 at the last minute," Darnell said. "I was told that when you start, the horse usually sits there for about 10, 15 yards. But I got about 10 yards out and all I heard was this, 'Dah-doomp, Dah-doomp, Dah-doomp.' At that point, I knew it was over."After the 2001 season, McDonald was languishing in the Orioles' system after hitting .238 for Triple-A Rochester, and his prospect tag was quickly fading. It was the last few weeks of the NFL season, and the Cleveland Browns were in a playoff push. Coach Butch Davis, who had recruited McDonald to the University of Miami during his prep days, called McDonald and offered a tryout.
McDonald would practice and then serve as an emergency running back and kickoff return man. He would get his chance to play in the National Football League and satisfy that hunger for his love.
He turned it down. McDonald, once again, wanted to show those around him, including himself, that he was loyal to baseball.
"It just wasn't a situation that was right for me," he said. "I love to play baseball. And even though things weren't going well for me, I still wanted to stick with it. Now it's become a challenge for me." (Gary Washburn-MLB.com-3/23/04)
Darnell's upper body is filled with tattoos. All of them have come since his mother died (when Darnell was 20 years old), and he says they have been a souce of therapy. He had "Psalm 91" tattooed on his shoulder before she passed and every time a saying or symbol reminds him of her, he gets it written on his body.
McDonald has two pit bulls.
He loves to ride motorcycles, especially his Harley. And he collects exotic fish in his salt-water aquarium.
On April 30, 2004, after waiting seven years, Darnell got his first look at the Major Leagues. The Orioles called him up from the Ottawa Lynx when they put David Segui on the D.L. with an inflamed left knee.
"C'mon I am thinking I'm on MTV "Punk'd" or something," McDonald said, describing the Ashton Kutcher-hosted TV series that is the Generation X version of "Candid Camera."
"I am like 'What's going on? Where are the cameras?'" McDonald said. "It's a big time for me and my family. It's definitely been my dream from the start."
Irony: The Orioles were in Cleveland, playing the Indians when McDonald got called up. It was the Cleveland Browns that had offered him an NFL tryout just two years before, an offer Darnell rejected.
After making his Major League debut (April 30, 2004), and collected his first hit, Darnell shaved off his corn-rows. Teammate Melvin Mora took his clippers and shaved the rookie's head after the April 30 game. "I always said if I make it to the Major Leagues, I'd take my hair all off," McDonald said. "For me it's something fresh, to change things up a little."
Darnell and wife Cynara, also from near Denver, Colorado, are going to celebrate the birth of their first child, a daughter, in May, 2005.
May 6, 2005: McDonald began a 15-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance under the guidelines of Major League Baseball's Minor League Drug Testing Program.
July 19, 2007: When McDonald was pulled from Triple-A Rochester's game, and Red Wings manager Stan Cliburn delivered the news of his callup, McDonald was understandably a tad emotional.
McDonald said he put a call into his wife, Cynara, who had already determined the good news by watching the game on television. She said she saw the huge smile on McDonald's face in the dugout and figured he was on his way to Minnesota.
"It's been a lot of ups and downs, but all for the good," McDonald said of his journey. "It made it feel better when I did get the news I was going to the big leagues. I worked hard for those three years, and I'm just happy to be here with the Twins."
Darnell's cousin, James McDonald, is a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
June 1997: The Orioles chose McDonald in the first round, o out of Cherry Creek High School in Englewood, Colorado.
January 26, 2005: McDonald signed with the Indians organization.
June 23, 2007: The Twins acquired Darnell from the Nationals, allowing the Nats to keep the rights to P Levale Speigner.
December 2008: Darnell signed with the Reds organization.
December 2009: McDonald signed with the Red Sox organization.
July 4, 2012: The Yankees acquired Darnell off waivers from the Red Sox.
January 9, 2013: McDonald signed with the Cubs' organization.