It has been just over a year since Darnell McDonald was called up to the Boston Red Sox last April and took a seat a few feet away from David Ortiz in the clubhouse.
In that short time, the lockermates have developed such a strong friendship that Ortiz considers McDonald family. Ortiz refers to him as D-Mac, an abbreviation of McDonalds name; McDonald calls Ortiz Big Pun, a reference to the rapper Big Punisher.
Even though the designated hitter and reserve outfielder do not spend much time together on the field, their time spent away from the game has helped them both.
D-Mac is like a brother to me, said Ortiz. I knew him from before the Red Sox but we started getting to know each other since we started playing together. But it doesnt take too long to get to be familiar with a guy like him. Hes cool as hell, and on top of that, he hits you with what you want to hear.
McDonald had looked up to Ortiz for years before joining him on the Red Sox. It didnt take him long, though, to sense there was something off about his new teammate.
At the time of McDonalds call-up, Ortiz was in a slump (he batted .143 in April 2010), and McDonald wanted to help him get out of it.
When I watched Big Papi on TV, he always has the patented spit in the gloves, clap, he recalled. He stopped doing it and I told him, When kids watch TV and theyre doing your stance, theyre doing the spit in the gloves and the clap. Weve got to get you going again, got to get your swag. Youre Big Papi.
He was acting like Little Papi.
McDonald offered Ortiz encouragement while he enjoyed success of his own. He hit a homerun in his first at-bat with the Red Sox and made a name for himself by stepping up in an injury-hampered outfield. After playing in over 1,300 Minor League games since 1998, McDonald relished in his opportunity in the majors.
His positive attitude was infectious and Ortiz fed off of it. Ortiz broke out of the rut and finished the season batting .270, thanks in part to the support of his friend who was in his corner the entire time.
Hes always there for whenever anybody needs them," said Ortiz. Theres not a better teammate.
This season Ortiz got off to a solid start, but unlike last year, there have not been as many opportunities for McDonald. The Red Sox outfielders, including Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, have been healthy and, as a result, McDonald has not seen as much playing time. This season he has appeared in 18 games, batting .150, compared to hitting .270 in 117 games last year.
Youve got to just try, said McDonald. Baseball is a humbling game, a lot of failure. Getting down about it isnt going to make it any better. Just watching how Pun goes about it every day, that helps everyone out because he doesnt panic.
This season Ortiz has been there to share his encouragement just as McDonald did for him.
I always offer support to Darnell, he said. I just tell my man to stay sharp. Hes going to have a hard time getting in the lineup because of the situation we have. Last year he played more because of the all the injuries and stuff. I dont know how he does it, though. I dont think Id be able to play like that because Im used to the everyday play.
While McDonald keeps a positive outlook himself, he appreciates the words of kindness from Ortiz. His advice cliques with McDonalds never too high, never too low mentality and means a lot to McDonald coming from a proven All-Star.
He taught me just be the same every day. Whether things are going good or bad, come to the field with the same approach every day, said McDonald. It means a lot. Thats Big Papi, you know? If Big Papi tells you something, you listen. Hes been around a long time, done a lot of things, so he always has some words of wisdom, always encouraging.
Its fun for me to come to the field every day and be right here next to Pun.