NEW YORK -- Here are nine things to know about A's third baseman Josh Donaldson, one of the newer American League names that must be strongly considered so far on your 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot sponsored by freecreditscore.com:
1. He can't believe any of this is happening.
"I do remember telling my teachers growing up, 'Hey, save my signature, because it's gonna be worth something someday,'" Donaldson said Friday morning during a visit to the MLB Fan Cave. "But I didn't really believe it. Like, I was just messing around with them. Now I wish I knew what they were thinking. If they see me play on TV, 'Did he know this? I taught him. He told me he was gonna play.' I just wish I was a fly on the wall with some people I grew up around. I was walking around thinking I was gonna take the world by storm. Some dreams do come true, I guess."
2. "The Donaldson" requires trimming every 10 days, and it was maintained as usual by noted celebrity barber Monster99 before Friday's series opener at Yankee Stadium.
And careful with the rat tail, please. That curly wisp of hair is key to Donaldson's Mohawk, maybe even a Samsonian secret to his recent AL Player of the Week Award and .314 average and 21 RBIs. It must protrude freely from under the back of the cap. A walk-off hit could come any day, and you have to look good when you flip your lid.
"You've got to have the rat tail," Donaldson said of his suddenly signature coif. "That's what's important. If you don't have that, then it's pointless."
3. His girlfriend Jillian Rose had absolutely no idea he was going to do that to his head when she dropped him off at the ballpark early this season.
"He looked like he always did," she said. "Then I was sitting in the stands with the girls. When he first got it done, his hair was so short and one of the girls said, 'I think his head is shiny.' I was like, 'What happened? I just dropped him off!' Then he takes off his helmet and we saw it.
"After the game, I'm like, 'Babe, what happened?' I said, 'Who did this?' He said, 'Well, I was doing it myself, and then I started having trouble so [Grant] Balfour helped me out.' So then I saw Balfour's wife, Angie, and I said, 'Hey, we need to talk about doing this before.' It was funny."
4. As a boy, Donaldson was a Braves fan and his favorite player was Ron Gant. Donaldson once saved up three bucks of lunch money to get Gant's rookie card at Big Hit Sports Cards in Spanish River, Ala., right by I-10 near his elementary school outside Mobile. Discovering that a Gant was up to $10, young Josh begged his mom to spring for the other $7.
"You know that look like the kid gives: 'I've got to have this,'" Donaldson said. "Of course, the loving mother that she was, she was like, 'OK.' So that Ron Gant card I had saved and wrapped up in bubble wrap. This was my prized possession."
5. He still loves trading cards so much that when given the option on Thursday of spending a day off shopping Fifth Avenue with Jillian or going with teammate Pat Neshek to open dozens of Topps Heritage boxes at the MLB Players Association headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, Jillian wound up hanging out with a best friend. Baseball always rules.
"This is your thing," she said.
6. He has a nine-pound, tri-color Cavalier King Charles Spaniel toy named Lucy, and loves her.
"People are surprised when they see him with this toy dog," Rose said. "He's a big sweetheart. He is. He's a really good guy. He would do anything for any of his friends. He's that guy."
7. He credits Greg Sparks, hitting coach of Oakland's Triple-A Sacramento River Cats affiliate, with the most important lesson he has learned, even when he persistently refused to be taught.
"I feel like I am being more consistent every day, as far as [putting the] barrel on balls," Donaldson said. "Oakland can somewhat play as a big ballpark. In the past, I've tried to swing harder. Right now, I'm just trying to focus on barreling the ball up and I'm hitting a lot of doubles. During the course of the year, the home runs will come. It's just something over the course of time you learn a little bit.
"Last year, we harnessed a little bit of this, coming up in the second half where I started producing at the Major League level for the first time."
Here is how his conversation with Sparks went last year:
Sparks: "What do you want to work on?"
Donaldson: "I don't need to work on anything. I know what I need to fix."
Sparks: "Well, I need to do something. I'm your hitting coach."
Donaldson: "Sparky, I really don't need anything."
The next day, Sparks approached him again and said: "Hey, if I can't do anything mechanically with you, I want to have some kind of mindset."
Donaldson: "OK, what do you got? I'm open for that."
Sparks: "Just get on first base."
"I can still affect the game positively by just getting on first," Donaldson now realizes. "Whereas in the past I've tried to maybe hit a home run, hit a double or more, it really just put it back into focus: 'Hey, the ultimate goal is just trying to get on base.' So far, so good."
8. Rose is from Cincinnati and is still a devout Reds fan. Shortly after they had met, she was wearing a Joey Votto MVP shirt and came to visit Donaldson one day in Salt Lake City, where she was living. With all due respect, there are no more Reds garments in this relationship.
"He was like, 'Babe, what are you doing? You're going to have to cover that up,'" Rose recalled. She told him Votto was a first baseman and he was a catcher (at the time), but he shook his head. "Needless to say, I haven't worn my Cincinnati gear since," she said.
9. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers is the first name that comes to Donaldson's mind at third base for the AL on the ballot, and a batch of young talent like Mike Moustakas and Manny Machado. But he's honored.
"I would never have thought someone would vote me into the All-Star Game," Donaldson said. "You've got some guys over at that position who have a lot of clout in the game of baseball. … Those guys are very good. I've been pretty fortunate to get off to a decent start, and I'm just thankful to be here."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.