With the baseball season in limbo because of the coronavirus, former Enterprise baseball standout and current St. Louis Cardinals minor league infielder Brendan Donovan has turned “old school” in trying to keep in shape and maintain his swing and defensive mechanics.
“Obviously, it is tough now with the gyms closing and baseball facilities shutting down,” Donovan said. “My dad (Jim) and my brother (Kevin) will go out in the yard and throw with me. Hitting has been a little bit tougher, so I am just going old school with a tee and a net in the backyard. Just trying to find any way to get some reps in that I can.”
With no certainly when the start of a season will occur, the former Wildcat star is approaching workouts like it is still preseason and a full season still ahead.
“You kind of continue like your off season never ended. I almost picture it like I never went to spring training and I never went to Arizona,” Donovan said.
Donovan was in Tucson, Ariz., when pro baseball, like all sports, came to a halt nearly four weeks ago. The 23-year-old, who was born in Wurzburg, Germany when his father was stationed overseas, was preparing with Team Germany for a World Baseball Classic qualifier when word came the event was canceled because of the developing coronavirus outbreak. Shortly after, Major League Baseball’s spring training was shut down, including the Cardinals’ spring training camp in Jupiter, Fla.
“Honestly I wasn’t that shocked (at the qualifier cancellation) because I was with some guys that were from foreign countries and they were kind of getting nervous about international travel,” Donovan said. “I wasn’t too shocked (at that shutdown)
“When spring training got shut down that was when I got pretty shocked because I thought everyone was in the country and they would be in the country until the season was over. I just figured we would keep going.”
Like most of the minor and major league players in baseball, Donovan returned home when the stoppage occurred. For the 2015 Enterprise graduate, home is now in Madison, located near Huntsville.
His dad Jim, a former USACRC Deputy Commander at Fort Rucker, was transferred to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville in June 2018. Donovan, along with his mom, Lisa, brother, Kevin, and sister, Ashley, moved from Enterprise to the Huntsville area.
All the family was doing well health-wise early this week in regards to the coronavirus outbreak, said Donovan.
A seventh-round selection by St. Louis in the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of South Alabama, Donovan will enter his third season in pro ball when baseball resumes.
After being drafted, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Donovan began his career with the Cardinals’ Short Season team in State College, Pa. He played just four games there when a wrist injury that required surgery ended his season.
“I took a swing and something felt funny,” Donovan said. “They did a couple of MRIs and found out that there was a small tear in there, so they went in and fixed it.”
During his limited introduction to pro baseball at State College, he earned just three hits in 16 at-bats with two runs batted in and two runs scored.
After off-season rehab for the wrist injury, he returned in time for spring training in Jupiter.
“I got healthy about a month before spring training so I went through spring training and had a good spring,” Donovan said. “I made the low A club and went to Peoria (Ill.). I got off to a little bit of a slow start, but I think it was because I didn’t play ball in about a year. Once I got back in the groove of things I felt good and felt I had a good year.”
Playing in 113 games with the Chiefs, the left-handed hitting Donovan earned a .268 batting average, collecting 107 hits in 403 at-bats, while hitting eight home runs, driving in 53 runs and scoring 70 runs. He also earned 26 doubles, drew 63 walks and had a .377 on-base percentage and .789 on-base plus slugging percentage.
He led the team in runs, walks and total bases (163). His totals in RBI, doubles and home runs ranked second on the team as did his on-base percentage. The eight homers tied for second most, while his hit total was third best and his games played were fourth most on the team.
“Offensively, I was happy with my production,” Donovan said. “I hit in the lead-off spot for most of the year, which is something I hadn’t done before. I was happy with how I managed the zone and took some walks. My on-base percentage was up therefore the OPS was up. The power production started to come as my doubles and homers were up.”
Defensively, Donovan played several positions in high school at Enterprise and in college at South Alabama, but locked in at third base near the end of his college career. However, he got a position change at Peoria.
“Last year, I moved to second base,” Donovan said. “It was a new position for me. I was happy with the way I fielded it. Obviously just like anything new, there was a learning curve in there and there were some highs and lows, but I was happy with how it went.”
The former Enterprise standout feels second base could be part of his future in pro ball.
“I think they like me at second base, but the important thing is you look at the big leaguers now and versatility is key,” Donovan said. “If you can play a bunch of different positions then you have a better chance to be in the lineup every day.”
Donovan got a special treat at the end of the season, getting a call to play for the AAA Memphis Redbirds in the final game of the season to help fill out the team’s roster.
“I think it was mostly an acknowledgment of the season I had, so that was pretty cool,” Donovan said. “It was also pretty cool to see and play against that upper level talent.”
He entered the game in the sixth inning at third base, fielding one play cleanly. He had two at-bats, earning a double in his first plate appearance and a walk in his second.
After playing in low Class A last year, Donovan hopes to move up in St. Louis’s minor league system this year to the Class A Advanced Palm Beach (Fla.) Cardinals team located in Jupiter. While no official word had come yet, Palm Beach’s Milb.com website already had Donovan listed on its roster.
The next step up following Palm Beach is Class AA Springfield (Ill.).
“You always want to keep moving,” Donovan said. “As long as you keep moving up and keep producing, you are all good.”
Like others throughout baseball, Donovan is playing a guessing game as to when the season might kick back up. Until then, he will continue his “old school” approach in the backyard and enjoy time with family.
“There is a little bit of uncertainty out there, but I am enjoying my extra time with my family and with my dog,” Donovan said. “There is a positive to everything.”