By TREVOR FITZPATRICK
He bats from the right, then switches around and bats from the left in the same game.
He starts at second base, then puts on the catcher’s gear when the team needs a signal caller change.
Heck, he’s even gotten up on the mound and pitched a scoreless inning against top Canadian talent during last year’s Canadian Futures Showcase.
Kamloops, B.C. native Matt Macdonald’s proverbial toolbox isn’t just full, it’s overflowing.
The switch-hitting catcher representing the Webber Wildcats of Alberta is so much more than what he’s listed as on this year’s Canadian Futures Showcase program. As his Team New Blue took to the diamond today against Team Red, one thing was immediately noticeable.
As Macdonald and company took to the field, he was lacking his catching gear and walking to the opposite side of the infield from where he usually resides – second base.
While Macdonald had a clean first inning defensively, his pitcher Ryan Press (Toronto, Ont.) was having a little less luck.
The left-hander who’s ranked No. 9 on CBN’s 2024 Draft List allowed a run in the inning and neared 30 pitches.
Team New Blue decided to change their catcher heading into the second. Macdonald replaced Benji Kautto (Toronto, Ont.) and caught the rest of the game that Team New Blue went on to win 6-5.
Macdonald’s versatility is an aspect of his game that he prides himself on.
“I try to be the best athlete I can possibly be. I try to play every position and I think that utility will help me in the long run.”
Catching is one of his more recent endeavours in his quest to play each position on the field. While most catchers start from a young age due to the complexities that come with the position, Macdonald only took up the gear three years ago. One of the larger challenges that’s come with that has been learning the art of framing.
“I had a later start for sure but my catching coach at Webber Matt Korman (Calgary, Alta.) and I have been working a lot on receiving pitches, especially ones with more break like sinkers.”
The Webber Wildcats Academy has undergone significant changes since 2021 when construction started on a $22 million new home for the team.
This year alone the Wildcats have sent six players to the Canadian Futures Showcase. Alongside Macdonald are Dylan Chopp (Calgary, Alta.), Dylan Dekker (Kamloops, BC), Kai Rempel (Calgary, Alta.), Sawyer Jensen (Wheatland County, Alta.), and Simon Baker (Cochrane, Alta.).
For Macdonald, one lesson from his coaches at Wildcats Baseball – led by Team Royal coach and former major leaguer Chris Reitsma (Calgary, Alta.) – stuck with him the most.
“Don’t think. Overthinking is one thing that’s caused me trouble, especially in the box. I have to keep working on sticking to an approach and doing what I do well.”
What Macdonald does do well is switch hit as mentioned earlier. A skill that only he and one other prospect in the entire showcase possess – the other being Seth Ainsworth (Sarnia, Ont.).
A natural left-handed batter, Macdonald’s skills from the right side come from the classic backyard game of wiffle ball.
“I was 14 and I remember my brother was doing it when he played, so I started to hit right-handed during our wiffle ball games. Then one day while I was hitting in the cages with my coach that same year, he asked me to try it in a game, so that’s how it started.”
During Team New Blue’s win over Team Red, Macdonald went 1-2 with a single, a hit-by-pitch, and a strikeout. His hit was from the right side while his other two at-bats were from the left.
All of his at-bats were productive, even the strikeout since he saw nine pitches before getting caught looking at a borderline 3-2 pitch that time up.
It would be quite a surprise if the scouts in attendance didn’t take note of a game as good as that one.
For now, Macdonald remains uncommitted to a school. He was at last year’s showcase but has since been re-classified to the 2024 group, allowing him to participate again. He’s certainly been making the most of the opportunity.
While Macdonald himself still isn’t entirely sure about where exactly he’d like to go to school, he does have some criteria in mind.
“There are a couple of great schools I have my eye on but I’d prefer somewhere with really great baseball that’s close to home so my dad can come watch me.”
Macdonald and Team New Blue next take the field Friday at 10 a.m. against Team Black for what will be their final game of the tournament before the home run derby and prospect all-star game on Saturday.