McDonald brings moms, kids together at Chase
Inspired by parents, D-backs shortstop hosts Mother's Day event
PHOENIX -- Whether it was trips to a ballgame or support at his own Little League games, John McDonald's earliest memories of baseball involved his parents, Joanne and Jack.
Like many people, it was a way for the D-backs shortstop to bond with his parents and open up the lines of communication.
Several years ago, while playing for the Indians and looking for a way to bring people closer to the game he plays, McDonald decided to host a group of fathers and their kids at Progressive Field on Father's Day.
"I felt like it was a great day to bring fathers and sons together at the ballpark to create new memories, talk about old memories and just be able to share something with your son or daughter," McDonald said. "My dad brought me to games when I was growing up and I thought that was great."
McDonald hosted the event once in Cleveland and then again in Toronto when he got traded to the Blue Jays.
In 2010, just days before he was set to host it for the third time McDonald's father passed away following a battle with cancer. Rather than see it as a reason to cancel the gathering, McDonald saw it as all the more reason to have it.
"It was awesome," McDonald said. "It was very therapeutic for me at the time, because none of my family could be in Toronto that day and to get to spend it with other fathers and sons was special."
When looking at the D-backs' schedule this year, McDonald realized they would be on the road for Father's Day and that got him to thinking about another possibility.
"In the past I focused a lot on the father-son bond, but what about the mother-son or mother-daughter relationship?" he said.
In checking the schedule, McDonald saw the D-backs were hosting the Giants on Mother's Day.
"I have a daughter, too, and I thought about how much my mom influenced me and had an impact on the goals that I had, what I did growing up and the type of person I am today," McDonald said. "There are a lot of moms out there who enjoy the game of baseball, who want to introduce their sons to baseball or their daughters to baseball and I want to bring them closer to the game as well."
With that in mind, McDonald invited kids to write a short essay (250 words was the limit) about why they wanted to honor their mom with tickets to the game.
Out of those submissions, 15 were selected to receive up to four tickets to one of the D-backs' Legends Suites to watch the game. They will also get to meet and talk with McDonald before the game.
"We'll talk about whatever they want to talk about," McDonald said. "There may be someone who comes to the game that doesn't have their father or husband anymore and they can really identify with things that I'm going through in my mind. I might get to meet someone that gives me a whole new perspective or brings some more clarity to things that go through my mind. And I may be able to do that for someone else."
And it's not just what happens at the ballpark that can make the difference.
"An event like this, there's a lot of things mothers and sons or mothers or daughters can talk about on the way to the ballpark," McDonald said.
The lessons that Joanne instilled in McDonald show up in the way he plays the game today. While she didn't worry about whether her son had any hits, or played well, she made her displeasure known when he didn't seem to have fun or did not play hard.
It is the enjoyment of the game that McDonald relishes when he glances up in the stands during a game.
"I like seeing people smile and having a good time," he said. "It's not always about going to the ballpark and watching your team win. If you go to the ballpark and get to interact with some of the players, or even some of the ushers or people that work at the park, then they go home and they had a really good time at the ballpark. Maybe we won, maybe we lost, but how much fun did people have that came to the game? We can't always make sure that we win, but we can do our best to make sure they enjoy themselves."
On Mother's Day as he honors his own mother as well as his father, McDonald will do his best to try to make that happen.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.