Playing for peanutPublished 12:25pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Thanks to the efforts of two Atmore Cal Ripken baseball players, James C. “Peanut” McDonald’s legacy in youth sports will live on throughout the season.
Cameron Cloud and Sam Martin – teammates of McDonald’s grandson, Sam Smith on the 12U Alabama Wing House Braves – came up with the idea to honor the man, who spent more than 30 years as a local youth sports umpire and referee.
League Commissioner Murray Johnson said the boys asked him if they could “put something on the shirts in honor of ‘Peanut’ McDonald,” who died in March after battling an illness.
“In 41 years as commissioner of this program I’ve never had a request like that,” Johnson said. “I can’t think of anything they could’ve done that would’ve been any better.”
They began working on a design, while keeping the plans under wraps in order to surprise Sam and his younger brother, Will Smith, who plays for the 8U First National Bank and Trust Braves.
Ashley Dortch Hughes embroidered the 45 jerseys to be worn by each of the players and coaches on both teams and were delivered to the players before their first game on April 20.
The patches featured a baseball with the following inscriptions; one for the Smiths that read: Paw Paw “Peanut” No. 7 and one for the jerseys of the other players on both teams that read: “Peanut” McDonald No. 7.
McDonalds’ daughter Becca Smith said she and her sons were pleasantly surprised when the jerseys were unveiled.
“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “They kept it a secret. We didn’t know anything about it.”
She said before this season started Sam found out from one of his grandfather’s high school teammates, Bill Etheridge, that his jersey number was seven and requested that as his number. His younger brother followed suit.
Becca Smith said her oldest son had a special connection to his grandfather, who spent a lot of time working with him on the fundamentals of baseball. She said Sam carries with him a peanut emblem that he touches before each at-bat.
“Paw Paw was his very best friend,” she said. “He worked with him all the time.”
She said the special jerseys mean a lot to both of her sons.
“Their just honored that their friends would think as much of their grandfather as they do,” she said. “Every time they put on the shirts they feel like they’re playing for their Paw Paw.”