'Next chapter' begins for McDonald with Cubs
CHICAGO -- When Darnell McDonald reported to the Cubs' Spring Training camp in February, he was fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster. The outfielder never expected he'd finish with a new job as a baseball operations assistant.
"When you're playing, you never think it's going to end," McDonald said in a phone interview. "I never thought I'd be doing something like this."
At the end of spring, McDonald, 35, met with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who said there wasn't a fit on the roster because the club wanted some of the young outfielders to play at Triple-A Iowa.
"I felt it was time to start the next chapter," McDonald said. "Theo told me they didn't have a job for me [as a player]. I didn't want to go anywhere else. He said he wanted me to be a part of what they're doing, and for me, it was a no-brainer to stay in the game of baseball. I love this game, and everything I have is because of baseball. To have the opportunity to learn from some of the smartest baseball minds in the game and people who are passionate about baseball, it made it easy for me to make the transition."
McDonald announced his retirement as a player after 16 professional seasons, including the last year with the Cubs' organization. In his new job, McDonald will contribute to all elements within the club's player development and amateur scouting departments. He'll visit all of the club's affiliates and work with the Minor League players, plus do some scouting. McDonald also will attend instructional league and serve as an extra coach.
"I want to help guys get to the big leagues," he said. "I want to help these guys bring a championship to Chicago."
McDonald joked the toughest part may be trying to find some khaki slacks, so he can dress the part in the Cubs' front office.
"I want to learn everything," McDonald said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge. I told Theo the same way I developed my skills playing baseball, I want to learn on the other side."
Was it hard to retire as a player?
"It wasn't that hard," McDonald said, laughing. "You go out and leave everything on the field. I have no regrets about anything."