This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.08/01/2022 03:23 PM
Any athlete’s dedication to a sport is crucial for their success. For Matt Donlan, who played for the Guilford baseball team from 2014 to 2018, dedication means pushing yourself to become the best version of yourself while doing what you love. Baseball has been Donlan’s passion from a young age, and his determination to get better has led to him earning a contract with the Boston Red Sox organization on the heels of a standout season at UConn.
Donlan put together a strong campaign as UConn’s starting catcher as a redshirt junior this year. Donlan went unselected when the 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) First-Year Player Draft took place from July 17 to 19, but shortly after the draft, he got a call from the Boston Red Sox. Donlan wound up signing a free-agent contract with the Red Sox, who have always been his favorite baseball team. Joining the Red Sox organization was a dream come true and an incredible moment for the Guilford native.
“I always believed it would happen, so I wasn’t as shellshocked as I thought I would be,” Donlan said. “Growing up a Boston Red Sox fan and coming down here to Fort Myers [Florida], walking down the hallway, seeing pictures of David Ortiz and all of the Red Sox legends and World Series banners, it’s pretty surreal.”
Donlan signed with the Red Sox after putting together a solid junior season at UConn. Donlan posted a .260 batting average to go with 14 doubles, 12 home runs, 27 walks, 47 runs scored, and 60 RBI on the year, helping the Huskies notch an overall record of 50-16 while winning their second-straight Big East championship and advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals. He also threw out 22 base runners and picked off another 5 runners from behind the plate.
By virtue of his performance, Donlan earned All-First Team Big East Honors, was named to All-New England Second Team, and made the American Baseball Coaches Association All-Northeast Region Second Team this year. Donlan was also selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the College Park Regional, which UConn won to reach the Super Regional.
The 2022 season marked Donlan’s first year competing for the UConn baseball team. After graduating from Guilford, Donlan went on to play baseball at Stonehill College, a Division II school, in 2019. However, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Donlan decided to transfer to Division I UConn, and that move turned out be one of the best decisions of his life. After sitting out the 2021 season, Donlan made his debut at UConn this year and proved a valuable asset to the Huskies’ ballclub.
“Once I was able to make the jump from Stonehill to UConn, the teammates and coaches at UConn, I can’t say enough about. Anybody that has anything to do with the UConn baseball program, from the top to bottom, is just all on the same page of a winning culture and a culture where you can get better,” said Donlan. “Not only do they give you the ability and resources to get better, but they also support you on and off of the field like I couldn’t have imagined a college baseball program would be able to do so. Without those coaches and teammates at UConn, there’s just no way this happens.”
Donlan’s college career was preceded by an excellent four-year tenure with the baseball program at Guilford High School. Donlan was a two-time All-SCC honoree and also served as a captain as a senior. In his junior and senior seasons, Donlan led Guilford to appearances in the Class L State Tournament, guiding the team to the quarterfinals in 2017 and the semis in 2018. Donlan said that Guilford’s 5-4, 10-inning victory against North Haven in the 2018 state quarterfinals was the highlight of his high school baseball career.
Jeff Mainetti, an assistant coach with the Grizzlies, coached Donlan from Little League through high school. Mainetti knew that Donlan would stand out among Guilford’s greats due to the catcher’s unwavering dedication to the game.
“There’s one thing that sets Matt apart than anybody else, and it wasn’t necessarily his talent. It was his determination to be the best he can be to make sure he could reach his full potential,” Mainetti said. “He thought he deserved to play at a higher level, and he did anything possible to make that happen. He’s always believed in himself.”
Donlan thoroughly enjoyed his career as a member of the Guilford baseball team. In addition to being an integral player, Donlan had the good fortune of being able to learn from, look up to, and listen to inspirational voices like Coach Mainetti and other members of the program.
“I was lucky to have a ton of coaches in Guilford who believed in me as a player and devoted a lot of time to me as a player and person,” said Donlan. “That culture that we played in during that time is a big part of my success and their success.”
As he learned from his coaches, Donlan enjoyed plenty of success at Guilford while competing alongside a group of teammates with whom he still keeps in contact to this day. One of the most important things that Donlan learned during his time in a Guilford uniform was the importance of making connections and then maintaining them.
“I still talk to a lot of the guys I played with in my grade and the grades below me and above me. Carrying those relationships out is probably the most memorable part,” Donlan said. “Being a part of Guilford baseball at that time led to a ton of connections.”
Following his accomplishments on the high school and college diamonds, Donlan’s next goal is to work his way up the ranks of the Boston Red Sox organization. Donlan is setting his standards high and will continue believing in himself as he strives to reach the big leagues.
“It’s not really about proving others wrong, but proving myself right and the people that believed in me, as well. That’s been the attitude I’ve had the whole time,” said Donlan. “Getting here, what motivates me now is the reason we’re here is to win a World Series. When you’re a professional baseball player on the Red Sox, the goal is to win a World Series.”
Matt Donlan has made tremendous strides during a career that’s been him go from competing in Guilford Little League to become a professional baseball player. Donlan is currently in Fort Myers, Florida, where he’s participating in a training camp program with his fellow Red Sox prospects. As he begins his quest to make it to Fenway, Donlan is staying true to himself and his values while enjoying the game that he loves to play.
“I’m just grateful to show up every single day and be a baseball player. I’m extremely fortunate to do so,” Donlan said. “It makes life really fun. I’m just taking it one day as a time and learning as much as I can while I’m here and being a sponge.”