Ian MacDonald – a diamond in the rough

By Tom Valcke

Until a couple of months ago, the only Ian MacDonald I knew in the baseball world was the legendary  sports writer from Montreal.  He was a true baseball man, very sincere and passionate about the sport, and it was an honour and a pleasure to have him on the selection committee at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.  Ian passed away at 87 in August, 2015.

As I was reading the roll call while facilitating an NCCP Competitive Development Hitting module at the Toronto Blue Jays Academy National Coaches Clinic at Rogers Centre in late January, it put a smile on my face when I asked if “Ian MacDonald” was present.  A young man from Markham, who studied and played ball at Lakehead U, and is now involved in Thunder Bay’s minor ball, raised his hand, and politely replied “I’m here.”  He was a burly guy who looked like he could handle a bat, so during the clinic I asked him to demontrate while I was focussing on how to evaluate hitting mechanics, and the happy-go-lucky fella couldn’t have been more cooperative.  We exchanged pleasantries at the end of the four-hour session, and went our separate ways.

About a week later, I wasn’t surprised when I received an email from the keener, asking to guest coach with iCASE when we went to Florida to train and play during March Break.  He even offered to cover his own expenses, just seeking the experience.  It took me all of about five seconds to accept his offer and welcome Ian to help us out, and help us out, he did.  He is a very well-organized coach, he knows what it takes to run a program like this, on and off the field, and even if that means around the clock. He has a sound knowledge of the game and an excellent manner of delivering it to players.  His calmness, positivity and sense of humour enables him to connect to young players, and his genuine passion for the game is infectious.   He was comfortable from the moment he first stepped foot in our dugout, and he contributed throughout what turned out to be a fun and productive week.  He did everything from throwing BP to curfew checks.

Ian recently landed an internship as an ambassador for the Toronto Blue Jays this summer, “a foot finally in the door,” as he puts it.  I know he’ll take the same approach as Alex Anthopoulos did, when, in his first baseball job, was determined to be the best damn volunteer fan mail opener that the Montreal Expos ever had.  That story had a pretty successful ending, and I will be the least surprised person if Ian MacDonald winds up being the best damn usher-ambassador that the Blue Jays have ever had, nor if he somehow creates a career for himself in the baseball industry.  If it doesn’t play out, this guy won’t have any regrets, as he’ll know he left it all on the field.  Best wishes Ian, and I know we’ll be crossing paths again!

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