TIMES Managing Editor
Marianna native Nathan McDonald has baseball in his blood. Although he’s coached soccer, worked as a ski instructor in Colorado, and now lives in New Zealand, he has never lost his love of baseball. McDonald played four years for the Bulldogs before he headed to Gainesville and his beloved Gator Country to obtain his bachelor’s degree. McDonald graduated from Marianna High in 1997, played at Chipola College 1997-1998. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2001.
He returned to Marianna, taught and coached baseball at Sneads High School for two years and Chipola for two years. McDonald transitioned to soccer and coached at MHS and Port St. Joe but the love of the game of baseball was as strong as ever. His love of soccer never exceeded his love of baseball and years later when the opportunity came about to become involved in baseball, Nathan jumped at the chance.
McDonald currently lives in New Zealand, along with his fiancé Dr. Frances Adams. They became involved with Christ Church and it was because of their involvement with Christ Church that the opportunity to become involved in baseball returned.
The sport to play in New Zealand is softball, not baseball. As all baseball fans know, there is a world of difference in the two. McDonald says, “When we started forming teams, the hardest part was transforming the players’ habits of showing up 15 minutes before a game, playing the game, and calling it done till the next game. They play softball every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with no days of practice. When McDonald started working with the baseball team, he said they were a little overwhelmed when he scheduled their first practice, “These guys were used to softball where they showed up 15 minutes before a game, played the game, and went home until the next game two days later. I told them practice would be from 4:30 to 7:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays to accommodate their softball games on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. They were more than a little shocked. Our season runs from middle of October to the middle of April. It’s kind of special being in a place where you know baseball is new and of course I am excited about it. It was really a case of being in the right place at the right time. New Zealand is one of the best in the world at softball and with that, they should do great in baseball. I was involved there with four teams in my league. We have four teams of 16 and under, two that were 13 and under, and five teams of adult baseball. Comparing the fields in New Zealand is like comparing it to Jennings Field. I remember the difference between Jennings Field and the M.E.R.E. (Optimist Park).”
McDonald says starting baseball here required him to go back to basics, “It was like teaching my nephew Logan who’s in tee ball, you had to teach the basics, very basics. It was comparable to starting a rugby team at MHS. We had to start from scratch with kids that are 14, 15 years old. It took me back but at the same time, it was kind of neat to teach mechanics to a whole group of kids like that. It was neat to be able to work with kids, teach them balks, and leadoffs, things they had no knowledge of. These were little things to kids I had coached before but they were monumental to them. I ended up taking them to nationals and we came in third. I felt like that was quite an accomplishment. To see the look on their faces when they got their bronze medallions, they were so proud and looked at them like it was a gold ring or something. On the flight home from taking third, I had three Japanese kids sitting with me and they just kept looking at that medallion. He’d put it down and then pick it back up. It was really touching and awesome to see that the little things still matter.”
The organization paid for McDonald and another coach to come to the United States and work with some professional (MLB) teams in late May. McDonald had the opportunity to work with the Baltimore Orioles and do some coaching with them. Although he didn’t get to meet up with fellow alum Justin Lord, he said it was a great experience, “We had a good time, learned some things, and got to work with some potential major league players. It was a great experience.”
While in the States, Nathan took a little vacation to visit friends and family in Florida and Colorado. His fiancé wasn’t able to make the trip this time. On a previous trip home, Nathan took Frances to an FSU and Texas Tech ballgame, “She’s starting to understand a little about baseball and I think as dedicated as I am to it, she is getting more on board with it.”
While in the states, McDonald received word he was awarded the 16 and under Coach of the Year for 2017.
Nathan is the son of Roger and Marcia McDonald of Marianna.
Congratulations to Nathan McDonald on a fine job and his award from the publisher and staff of the TIMES.