After injuries piled up, McDonald became the one who faded away
Sometime in the past 30 years, Ben McDonald lost track of the piece of paper, but the message Cal Ripken Jr. inscribed on it has stayed with him. McDonald, 51, is the only player the Orioles have selected with the first overall pick of the Major League Baseball draft. That will change Monday, when they’ll likely choose from a talented crop of position players — including Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and California first baseman Andrew Vaughn — to make the draft’s first selection for the first time since taking McDonald, a right-hander out of LSU, in 1989.
In the weeks that followed that pick, amid negotiations between the Orioles and McDonald’s agent, Scott Boras, Ripken wrote McDonald a letter. Entrenched as the face of the Orioles, Ripken grew up in nearby Aberdeen and knew what it took to be embraced in Baltimore. He passed it along to McDonald.
“Baltimore’s a blue-collar city,” McDonald recalled the letter reading. “You go out and you stay out of trouble, you bust your butt every day, you work as hard as you can every day, and the people are going to take to you.
“And boy, was he right.”
That’s the same advice McDonald has for whomever the Orioles decide to make only the second No. 1 pick in franchise history.