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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Chatty shortstop Donald enjoying UA stay

    Junior shortstop Jason Donald looks for his pitch in a 15-1 win against La Salle Feb. 25. Although Arizona has lost its last six games, Donald hit his 16th career home run last weekend. The Wildcats will take on UC-Irvine on Saturday.
    Junior shortstop Jason Donald looks for his pitch in a 15-1 win against La Salle Feb. 25. Although Arizona has lost its last six games, Donald hit his 16th career home run last weekend. The Wildcats will take on UC-Irvine on Saturday.

    “”Dammit! Stay on top and hit the ball in the gap!””

    It may sound like it comes from the mouth of your average baseball player, but be forewarned, because Arizona baseball junior shortstop Jason Donald is much more than your average athlete.

    The phrase – overheard one night on a road trip by senior second baseman and then-roommate Brad Boyer as Donald slept – proves that the Clovis, Calif., native Donald literally never takes his mind off the game.

    “”It’s probably a classic line,”” Boyer said, “”because Jason’s such a hard-working (guy), and he’s still thinking about baseball in his sleep.””

    Apparently it’s working, as Donald is hitting .308 on the year with two home runs and a team-leading 20 RBIs – but that’s not to say his sleep-talking is limited to baseball.

    “”He says a lot of stuff in his sleep,”” said sophomore third baseman Colt Sedbrook, Donald’s roommate on the road this year. “”I woke up one night, and he was saying something; he was saying, ‘Hey. Hey, Div’s got me.’

    “”I said, ‘What?'”” Sedbrook continued. “”He said, ‘Hey, Div’s got me.’ I looked over, and I turned the light on, and he’s out (asleep).

    “”So I talk to him the next morning,”” Sedbrook said, “”and I’m like, ‘Were you talking in your sleep, dude, or were you just trying to play a joke on me?’ And he’s like, ‘Nope, do it all the time.’

    “”I mean he says a lot of stuff during the night.””

    When the subject was brought up to Donald, he simply laughed but immediately knew the source.

    “”Who – Colt told you that, huh?”” he said, still smiling. “”I don’t know what it is. I guess I talk in my sleep.

    “”I don’t like to room in hotel rooms with my parents because sometimes I’ll cuss in my sleep, and I don’t even know it.””

    Aside from his antics at night, Donald also has another interesting quirk: The ball seems to be magnetically attracted to him.

    After breaking former Wildcat Kenny Corley’s single-season record for most times hit by a pitch last season, getting plunked 19 times, Donald took over Corley’s top spot in Arizona’s career HBP list Feb. 25 against La Salle, when he was hit for the third and fourth times this season.

    Donald has now been hit 33 times in 143 career games.

    “”It’s just one of those things where I just don’t get out of the way,”” he said. “”If they’re going to hit me, they’re going to hit me, and it’s going to be a free base. So if it happens, it happens, I guess.””

    Has his head coach, Arizona’s Andy Lopez, ever seen anything like it?

    “”To be honest with you, I would have said ‘No,’ but now I’ve got Colt Sedbrook,”” Lopez said of his infielder, who’s been nailed 13 times in 21 games. “”I’ll tell you the truth, man, I kinda sit around sometimes and go, ‘How the heck do you get hit so much?'””

    Well, Colt?

    “”I don’t know,”” Sedbrook said. “”I think … it’s just the way it is. It’s part of baseball, and I’d like to beat (Donald’s record), have a little mark over a phenomenal player like him.””

    Said Donald: “”I’ll gladly give it to him.””

    In other words, it hurts to get hit by a pitch traveling upward of 90 mph.

    “”Sometimes when you see it coming, you kind of tense up, and you’re like ‘Ohhh man,'”” Donald said of being hit. “”It doesn’t feel good.

    “”Thinking back to when I was a kid, I remember getting beaned when I was younger and same thing in high school. It really wasn’t a new experience (in college), except guys just throw harder and it hurts a little bit more.””

    After being coached by his father, Tom, at Buchanan High School – “”My dad has done more for my career than anybody else,”” Donald said – he was selected in the 20th round of the 2003 MLB Draft by the Anaheim Angels and then was faced with the choice of going pro or honoring his commitment to Lopez’s Wildcats.

    “”It was kind of a whirlwind a little bit,”” Donald said, “”because it kind of came down to the end, where they wanted to do a pre-draft agreement, and they said if I would’ve signed, they would draft me.

    “”Ultimately, it came down to what I wanted to do and what my heart was telling me, and it was telling me I wanted to go to college. I wanted to play for coach Lopez.””

    Once he arrived in Tucson, Donald’s impact was felt immediately, both on and off the diamond.

    “”He’s just a model citizen,”” Lopez said. “”Great young man, great work ethic.””

    Donald, who has missed just two games his entire career, has started all 143 games he’s played in as a Wildcat but hesitated when asked about starting as a freshman.

    “”I don’t want to sound cocky,”” he said, “”but in a way it was what I expected. I knew coming into this program it was a tremendous honor to get to play for coach Lopez, but you can only be shell-shocked and star-struck for so long.

    “”It was always what I had dreamed to do, play college baseball. I never sat in my life, and I certainly didn’t want to start that once I got to college.””

    Though many before him have taken the money and run straight to the professional ranks out of high school, Donald is cherishing his time as a Wildcat.

    “”The game’s humbled me a lot,”” he said. “”I’ve gone through a lot while I’ve been here. Having success, not having success, learning how to deal with failure, it really has matured me a lot, I think.

    “”There’s times when you’re a broke college student, and you think, ‘Man, it’d be kind of nice to have some money right now,'”” he said, “”but I really wouldn’t trade the experiences for anything.””

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