Speed kills: Grand Street’s McDonald earns Monroe Tournament MVP

Basael McDonald is always thinking about reaching the next base, so odds were Grand Street Campus’ speedy right fielder was going to take off upon reaching base anyway.

Bryant catcher Brian Esposito just made sure he didn’t waste any time. The confident junior called out for the sophomore to take off once he reached first base on his first of three bunt singles, much to McDonald’s surprise.

“That just motivated me,” McDonald recalled. “I knew he wasn’t going to get me.”

His confidence is well-founded: He has 24 stolen bases in seven league games this spring and picked up a PSAL-high 38 a year ago.

“There isn’t a catcher yet that can get me,” said McDonald, whose father, Manuel, reached Triple-A in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

McDonald reached base successfully in all four plate attempts against the Owls, swiped four bases and scored two runs, helping the Wolves to their first Monroe Tournament title, 11-1, over Bryant Friday afternoon in The Bronx. He was named tournament MVP, recognition for the havoc he created on the base paths. In the Wolves’ final two wins, McDonald reached safely six times; of his three bunt singles on Friday, two weren’t necessarily placed perfectly. His legs just out-ran throws.

“His speed kills,” marveled Grand Street shortstop Jose Cuas. “Once he gets on base, there’s always something going on, whether he’s stealing second base, third base, laying a bunt down. He starts the game for us. He gets on base, he’s gonna score.”

One Major-League scout familiar with the 5-foot-7, 17-year-old sophomore described his speed as “game-changing.”

“He has plus pro speed,” the scout said.

McDonald scored the go-ahead run for Grand Street in the semifinal win over Monroe and scored twice against Tottenville in the final game of pool play. He was actually struggling somewhat before the tournament; until Grand Street coach Melvin Martinez moved him from fifth in the order to second, in front of run-producers Williams Jerez, Ernesto Perez and Jose Cuas.

“It’s the best move we ever made,” Martinez said. “He’s like a guaranteed three runs per game.”

Martinez says McDonald has been timed on several occasions running the 60-yard-dash 6.4 seconds and circling the bases in 14.7.

“I’ve been around baseball a long time, I played Division I college baseball at St. Francis and I played semi pro ball, but I’m never seen a kid that fast,” Martinez said. “He’s a walking triple.”

As far as Esposito offering McDonald added motivation, Bryant coach Rocco Rotondi said he didn’t mind his catcher offering up a challenge.

“They executed; we didn’t.” Rotondi said. “I’d rather him challenge the kid all day and get burned that not challenge him at all.”

McDonald never addressed Esposito after each stolen bases. The two shook hands after the game, but didn’te exchange words or even a nod of the head.

“I just played my game,” McDonald said. “My job is to get on base.”

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