After signing with the Chicago Cubs organization as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2017, ‘Iolani alum Christian Donahue quickly rose up the minor league ranks, even reaching the Triple-A level in 2018.
Donahue played the entire 2019 season for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies and entered the offseason determined to move back up Chicago’s organizational ladder in 2020. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he never got the chance. The minor league season was canceled across all levels last season.
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The last calendar year reaffirmed to Donahue that baseball isn’t forever. Heading into the 2021 season, where he’ll likely start off with the High-A South Bend Cubs, Donahue looks to embrace every opportunity he has to step on the diamond. Opening day for the minor leagues is slated for May 4.
“For me, it’s not to get too high, not to get too low,” Donahue told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello of his approach in 2021. “Going back now, going back to it and going through this season, it’s gonna be more embracing the goods, the bads, enjoying and embracing all those times because we know what it’s like to have the game taken away from us just like that and at some point the game’s gonna be taken away from me so there’s gonna be a point where someone says you can’t play anymore and it’s gonna be over so just going about it day by day and enjoying every single moment of every day, just playing the game and having fun.”
During the pandemic, Donahue got in work with other baseball players from the islands playing at the next level, including his younger brother, Jordan, who is a freshman infielder at Oregon State. Among the other players Christian Donahue got reps in with was Mid-Pacific’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa, his former ILH rival who’s now the starting shortstop for the Texas Rangers. Donahue points to Kiner-Falefa as an example of a player who made the most of his opportunities in pro ball.
“He has helped me so much, both physically and mentally,” Donahue said of Kiner-Falefa. “I think the biggest takeaway from Isiah is just watching him work and learning about how he attacks the game.
“Learning how his thought process is and how he attacks every season and every day, day in and day out, his mindset, he’s unbreakable. He’s been through it all, he’s been through the grind and it wasn’t an easy path for him, grinding it out to get that spot and once he got it, he was ready. His mindset and the way he attacks every single day, he knew he was gonna be ready when he got the chance.”
As for current MLB players with Hawaii ties, here’s how they did this past week:
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, shortstop, Texas Rangers (Mid-Pacific): Kiner-Falefa has been a bright spot for the Rangers, who are currently 3-6 after getting swept by the San Diego Padres, including getting no-hit by Joe Musgrove on Friday. Kiner-Falefa was the final hitter on Friday and grounded out but made up for it on Saturday with his second home run of the season. He currently hitting .263 with six RBIs.
Kolten Wong, second baseman, Milwaukee Brewers (Kamehameha-Hawaii and University of Hawaii): Wong went 0-for-3 in an emotional return to St. Louis on Thursday against his former team, the Cardinals. The home crowd as Busch Stadium welcomed Wong back with a standing ovation, and Wong was moved to tears.
Wong is currently on the 10-day injured list with an oblique injury and will likely not play next week.
Ka’ai Tom, outfielder, Oakland Athletics (Saint Louis): After collecting his first scoreless inning and first major league hit, Tom has not recorded another hit since and is currently hitting 1-for-14 (.071) for the season.
Josh Rojas, utility, Arizona Diamondbacks (University of Hawaii): Rojas did not collect a hit this week and has struggled early at the plate this season, going 2-for-27 (.074).
Kurt Suzuki, catcher, Los Angeles Angels (Baldwin): Suzuki played in two games this week as he continues his backup role for the Angels, going 0-for-7 at the plate combined in his two starts. He’s currently hitting .083 (1-for-12).