In high school last spring in Colorado, Darnell McDonald made a lot of things happen in a hurry, hitting .606 with 10 home runs in 66 at-bats.
Now, he has learned, he has much more time on his hands.
"There are a lot of games here," said one of the Orioles' No. 1 draft choices from 1997. "It's a long season, and sometimes you might not get a hit. You have to battle through it and pace yourself. That's the biggest change I see."
McDonald bypassed a chance to play football at the University of Texas to sign with the Orioles for a $1.93 million bonus after being tabbed as the top high school position player in the draft by Baseball America.
He possesses a total package: speed, power and a family that has sent an uncle (Ben) to the NBA, another uncle (James) to the NFL and his father (Donzell Sr.) and brother (Donzell II) to minor-league baseball.
But Darnell is barely 19, did not play professionally last summer because of a late signing and has just placed his feet in the water with the Delmarva Shorebirds.
"Not having pro experience, he has a big adjustment," said Shorebirds manager Dave Machemer, himself a rookie in the organization. "But he has all the physical tools and works very hard. He's had some problems at the plate, but we're working on some things."
Machemer has McDonald in left field and hitting almost anywhere from second to seventh.
"His errors have been mostly on ground balls," said the manager. "But overall his defense is good because he has good speed, moves well laterally and goes back on the ball decently."
McDonald said he is not questioning his decision to give up football despite accumulating more than 6,000 yards rushing as a high school tailback.
"I don't have any second thoughts," he said. "It's always been my dream to play pro baseball, and as soon as I made the choice, I knew it was the one I wanted.
"I watch a lot of football on TV, college games, but I'm just that now a fan."
He is now fully committed to the Orioles and desires only "to become the best baseball player I can be. I know I have to pay my dues."
Until this spring, his only contact with a wooden bat was in the Instructional League at Sarasota, Fla., last fall. He also spent time in major-league camp this spring.
"This organization cares about its players," he said. "I'm happy and relieved to be here."
Around the horn
Rochester: Third baseman Willis Otanez was named Organizational Player of the Month for April after batting .319 with three home runs and 19 RBIs. He put together a 15-game hitting streak earlier this year. Ricky Otero's 12-game hitting streak ended Tuesday. He batted .333 (17-for-51) with six RBIs and nine runs scored during the streak. Infielder P. J. Forbes, who impressed Orioles manager Ray Miller during spring training, ranked among the leading hitters in the International League with a .326 average before yesterday. He led the league with 13 doubles and was second with 44 hits. Right-hander Richie Lewis took a perfect game into the seventh inning against Columbus on Wednesday before allowing three runs and taking the loss. The Red Wings' staff had served up a league-high 45 homers going into the weekend, but 33 came with nobody on base. Catchers Andrew Utting and Tim DeCinces were a combined 2-for-25 throwing out base stealers.
Bowie: After batting .217 through their first 18 games, the Baysox hit .294 over the next 13. They pounded out 15 runs and 17 hits in Thursday's win over Reading, going 9-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Outfielder D. C. Conner became the first Baysox player to hit for the cycle Thursday, going 5-for-5 with five RBIs vs. Reading. He had 16 RBIs in a span of 16 games. Second baseman Jesse Garcia was batting .425 (17-for-40) with four doubles, a homer and 10 RBIs in May before yesterday. He was a career .243 hitter in four minor-league seasons. First baseman Calvin Pickering hit a game-winning three-run homer Wednesday, and went deep again Thursday. Outfielder Bryan Bogle had 12 RBIs in his first 12 games since joining the Baysox. Right-hander Chris Fussell ended a streak of 23 straight Eastern League starts without a victory on Thursday.
Frederick: Carlos Casimiro hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Keys a 2-1 victory in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader. Josh Towers picked up the complete-game win, allowing four hits and lowering his ERA to 1.73 -- third-best in the Carolina League. Ivanon Coffie hit in nine of 11 games going into yesterday. Jerry Hairston had hit in 14 of his past 16 before yesterday. After stealing 60 bases last year at nTC Delmarva, Darrell Dent leads the Keys with 12. Closer David Mastrolonardo, the Fireman of the Year in the Appalachian League after going 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 12 saves at Bluefield, has been struggling with the Keys. He allowed four earned runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning Friday, bumping his ERA from 5.65 to 7.80. His blown save Wednesday led to a 5-4 defeat.
Delmarva: A fill-in starter because of an injury, Jay Spurgeon had a no-hitter for 5 1/3 innings against Charleston on Wednesday in a 2-0 win. Spurgeon was making his second start, taking the place of John Stephens, who's on the disabled list with a strained neck. The Shorebirds swept first-place Cape Fear last weekend. Catcher Jayson Werth, one of the Orioles' first-round picks in last June's draft, was hitting .327 going into yesterday. He threw out six consecutive runners attempting to steal and hasn't committed an error. Werth also was second on the team in steals with nine. Right-hander Matt Achilles was named Organizational Pitcher of the Month for April. He went 3-1 with a 2.56 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings, and tossed a no-hitter April 27. Another right-hander, Jordan Romero, struck out seven consecutive Charleston batters Wednesday. Outfielder Mack Haman, who appeared in 47 games with rookie-league Bluefield last year, was sent to the minor-league camp in Sarasota. The Shorebirds picked up pitchers Todd Lee and Rafael Tapia from Frederick. Tapia got the win with a scoreless inning in his Shorebirds debut Thursday.
Pub Date: 5/18/98