For most Red Sox followers, last night was their memorable introduction to Darnell McDonald.
Mine came in February in Fort Myers, Fla., during the drudgery of Sox spring training. While waiting to talk to Kevin Youkilis, I happened to accidentally back into the locker of an unfamiliar, athletic-looking outfielder who, instead of chirping at me to get out of his way, introduced himself and shook my hand.
It was Darnell McDonald.
As a reporter, especially one relatively new to baseball and its byzantine customs and culture, there is a lot of standing around in a major league clubhouse. Sometimes it resembles the courting process at an awkward middle school dance. So, while I waited, I started talking to McDonald, who was both outgoing and easy-going with a complete stranger.
We started to talk about my favorite sport, college football, and he dropped the fact that he was recruited by Texas to play running back behind a fellow by the name of Ricky Williams. As a follower of college football recruiting, his name rang a vague bell, but, honestly, I didn't know just how big-time a recruit he had been.
He didn't mention that he was arguably the greatest high school running back in the history of the state of Colorado, rushing for 6,121 yards and 83 touchdowns, and was to be the next Williams for the Longhorns.
He just said that he had chosen baseball over football and had no regrets. He started to tell me about all the organizations -- the Sox are his seventh -- he had played for, and how excited he was to be in camp with Boston and around players like Mike Cameron.
The next couple of days he always greeted or acknowledged me when I saw him in the clubhouse and always had a smile on his face.
I asked him after everything he had been through in his baseball career, which at that point some would have labeled a disappointment, what kept him going.
"I just love the game, man," he said.
It took a while, but last night McDonald's romance with baseball was requited, and it couldn't have come at a better time for Red Sox Nation.
It's not often in this job that you can openly root for players. It's frowned upon as unprofessional, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't rooting for Darnell McDonald.
Now, I'm glad everyone else has reason to root for him too.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.