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OAKLAND – Josh Donaldson couldn’t have known one of the toughest parts about his emotional return to the Coliseum would be the drive getting there.
Hopping in a cab to cross the Bay Bridge from San Francisco in commute traffic, his driver tried experimenting with a shortcut.
“I said, ‘I’ve been driving from San Francisco to Oakland for a couple years now. I don’t know any shortcut,’” Donaldson told the cabbie. “Two hours later, I get here.”
Things seemed to go smoothly once he finally arrived at the ballpark in which he blossomed from a backup catcher into an All-Star third baseman. Donaldson fielded questions from a huge pack of media, then made the rounds for hugs and handshakes with those in green and gold. He stood behind the cage chatting with A’s manager Bob Melvin while some of his former teammates took batting practice.
Some familiar faces, obviously, were missing. Donaldson was the first of four All-Stars shipped out of Oakland over the winter. He was dealt to Toronto in exchange for third baseman Brett Lawrie, right-hander Kendall Graveman (Tuesday’s starter for Oakland), minor league left-hander Sean Nolin and minor league shortstop Franklin Barreto. Shortly after, first baseman Brandon Moss, pitcher Jeff Samardzija and catcher Derek Norris were traded.
Donaldson said it took him two or three weeks to get over the shock of the A’s dealing him.
“You look at our record from the All-Star break in 2012 to 2014, we were probably the most winning organization in baseball,” Donaldson said. “With that being said, there was some transition there. We knew we were gonna lose (Jed) Lowrie to free agency. But when they added Billy Butler, you thought, ‘Hey, we’re gonna keep going for this.’
“As a player that’s what I felt. Obviously I’m not the one making the decisions or pulling the strings. But once I was traded, other guys started to get traded and you saw the change of dynamic of where the team was going.”
Donaldson, who made his first All-Star team in 2014, is in the conversation for the American League MVP award to this point. He’s hitting .288 and ranks fifth in the league in homers (22), fourth in RBI (62), third in runs (67) and second in total bases (193).
He drew his second consecutive start in the All-Star Game and set a record for most fan votes ever received, totaling over 14 million. He benefited from some high-profile publicity, including an endorsement from legendary hockey commentator Don Cherry.
An Alabama native, Donaldson was amazed by the All-Star love he got from both Canadian and American fans.
“Coming from a town of 15-20,000 people, to have 14 million votes, I don’t get it.”