Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
"When I step on that field, I want everybody in that ball park to know that I'm the best one on that field."
I touched on this in yesterday's Takeaways after the game concluded, but after watching the extended video feature on Josh Donaldson by the MLB Network (and rewatching it, and rewatching it, and rewatching it) I think this deserves its own focus. If you have yet to watch the video (WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING!), you can do so by clicking here. It's 10 minutes, but a must for any Blue Jays fan.
The video is hosted by former Blue Jay, Mark DeRosa and it's quite candid. Basically, the piece completely humanizes Donaldson, as he discusses his journey as a professional ball player. Yet, more compelling than the details of the hard work he put in to achieve that elite status that he has earned today, the most important thing that I got out of the whole video was the underlining importance of staying true to yourself and, above all else, the fearlessness in which one should express it.
DeRosa lays down the foundation, describing the contrast to how Donaldson was when he first walked into the Chicago Cubs' clubhouse as a rookie to the super-stardom he has blossomed into. DeRosa offers the tag "rebel" to best describe how Donaldson is today. Donaldson attributes much of his demeanor to his mother, who encouraged him to stay true to himself. The importance of this was exemplified, as Donaldson described his attitude as a young player in the game by striving to avoid stepping on people's toes. By doing so, it inhibited his natural personality and resulted in poor performances on the field; enough so that he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2008 (the headline for the trade read "John Donaldson traded to Oakland." FOR REAL!).
The rest of the piece goes into how Donaldson began to buck the trend of listening to the hitting instructor during his time in Oakland, while he instead started to trust himself and in his own abilities at the plate. It was this type of mental shift that helped propel him to an MVP-caliber year and be the player that we are all familiar with today. I don't wish to focus much on the mechanics, as breaking down the personal approach and swing Donaldson developed would be a complete disservice towards him and his incredible abilities. Seriously, I'm not even close to qualified to analyze that. I don't want to downplay how fascinating this part of the video was though, as he gets real philosophical when it comes to his hitting approach; specifically his rhythm and timing. He just does a much better job explaining it than I ever could. More reason to watch the video.
The main point I'd like to sit on here is the psychological one Donaldson brought up. Donaldson stressed how important it was to trust himself and, if he wasn't going to make it as a professional ball player, he was going to fail on his own terms and by his own direction. It goes to show the value in trusting your own intuition in order to pave your own path towards success. I can only imagine how much of a cluster it is for players as they develop. There are probably countless different instructors telling a guy something that contradicts the previous instructions, leading to overthinking, over analyzing, and perhaps paralysis at the plate. Donaldson seems to elude to this without fully admitting it, suggesting that he abandoned most or all input and trust his own process.
This isn't something that it easy to do. Imagine going into work, having a pretty good grasp on what you're doing, but you have 4-5 different higher-ups telling you to do the same thing 4-5 different ways; all while implying that "if you don't do it this way, you'll never succeed. You won't make it." That can be not only disheartening, but ridiculously intimidating! So it takes a giant set of balls to ignore those that are supposed to "know" how to "fix" you and trust in yourself. It takes an enormous amount of confidence to go all-in with your own instincts to keep your head above water and thrive. This is Josh Donaldson.
As mentioned, DeRosa throws out words to describe Donaldson - rebel, swagger, confidence, etc., and he's not wrong. Often times when we see players act confident, we find it off-putting and regard it as unnecessary showboating. Yet, after listening to how Donaldson became what he is right now (for our team mind you), how he pretty much self-taught himself to greatness, he has more than earned the right to bleed swagger and confidence all over the field. He has more than earned the right to be called "The Bringer of Rain." He has more than earned his right to demand respect from players around the league, as well as those that work in the media. He has earned the right to be the self-described "Dream Crusher" by "crush[ing] dreams when [he's] on defense by taking hits away." There's a fine line between annoying AF arrogance and confidence. Josh Donaldson walks that line just fine.
Maybe it's because he's a Blue Jay. Maybe it's because I've grown accustomed to seeing Donaldson on my television screen during the spring and summer (and fall!). But there is something incredibly compelling about this personal philosophy. Often times we look at most players as statistics; a body that occupies a given team's jersey until their services are no longer required - then it's on to the next one. We often see them as replaceable vessels that ought to serve our interests as fans, as a means for entertainment. Yet, when seeing a piece like this that demonstrates the importance and art of trusting who you are, while at the same time taking pride in that, it's hard to not be inspired.
"When the real lion steps up, the other lions walk away..."
You be you, Josh.
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