BOSTON -- Darnell McDonald entered Tuesday night's game with the Orioles with 302 at-bats, which was nearly three times his previous career high, set last year while with the Cincinnati Reds.
After spending nearly all of the previous 12 seasons in the Minor Leagues, this has been a magical year for the outfielder, who has found a home with the Red Sox.
"I didn't envision getting 300 or whatever amount of at-bats I've gotten," said McDonald. "It's been a dream come true for me. I've worked hard to put myself in this situation. For it to come and get the opportunity for an organization like this and to be able to play in a place like this has been unbelievable."
The way McDonald looks at it, perhaps he can give hope to other journeyman players who go from one Minor League affiliate to the next, wondering if there will be a payoff.
"I could be at home right now watching September baseball," McDonald said. "Just continue to work hard throughout the years. Never stop believing. I hope this helps somebody else down the road that's in the same position that I was in, following your dream, not knowing if it's going to happen -- all the things that go through your head when you're battling through the Minor Leagues. If you continue working hard and believing in yourself, it can happen. For me, it was this year with the Red Sox."
There were indications right from the start this would be a special season for McDonald. On April 20, the day Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron were both placed on the disabled list, McDonald was summoned from Triple-A Pawtucket shortly before game time. All he did that night was hit a game-tying pinch-hit homer and then a walk-off single off the Green Monster. He has been on the roster since.
This, even though Boston informed him after the May 24 game at Tropicana Field he was being designated for assignment. But in that instance, the Red Sox smartly waited until the last possible minute to make the move official. And when Ellsbury had a setback, they elected to keep McDonald on the roster after all. McDonald spent an entire day in a hotel room in St. Petersburg thinking he had been released and wondering what the next chapter would bring.
"That's another example," McDonald said. "You never know. Yeah, I could have been somewhere else right now. That's how I've looked at things my whole career. Everything happens for a reason. The only thing that could have been better for me this year would have been getting to the playoffs and experiencing that. One thing I have learned over the 13 years I've been playing is just worry about the things that you can control and just not looking too far ahead and just enjoying every day. That's the approach I've taken this year -- just trying to enjoy every day."
Manager Terry Francona raved about McDonald before Tuesday's game, both for his enthusiasm and his performance. McDonald hopes to be back in Boston in 2011.
"I'd love it," McDonald said. "I want to find a home. I love all my teammates here. There's a lot of good people. My family loves it here. I can't say enough good things about how they do things here. From Day 1, even in Spring Training, they made me feel a part of the team. They sit you down and try to tell you what their expectations are, and as a player, that's all you can really ask for -- people to communicate and be up front with you. They've done a good job of that here."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.