Auburn alum Josh Donaldson might be fresh off an MVP season on the diamond, but baseball wasn’t on his mind Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“At the beginning of the offseason you just try to regroup and recover,” Donaldson said with a smile.
The chance to watch the 80th Iron Bowl from the sidelines at Jordan-Hare Stadium might have also had something to do with it.
Donaldson watched his alma mater play Alabama with a group of friends next to the Tigers’ bench for much of the first half.
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“It’s huge,” Donaldson said of the Iron Bowl. “I grew up a football fan first and foremost. Always wanted to play, but being back here is awesome to be in this environment. This is what both these teams have worked for all year. It’s nice to be part of it.”
After a short highlight reel from his MVP season aired on the stadium’s video board, the 29 year old received a standing ovation when introduced to the sold-out crowd.
“It’s been nice to just to be able to be back in Auburn,” Donaldson said. “There are people (here) that have supported me throughout.”
The reaction at JHS is similar to the one he’s received in smaller doses on campus throughout the week.
“People just want to say congratulations,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson spent three seasons at Auburn before the Chicago Cubs selected the then catcher in the first round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He had a breakout year with the Oakland Athletics in 2012.
Oakland traded Donaldson last year to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he would beat out Mike Trout for the AL MVP in his first season north of the border.
Donaldson hit .297 with 41 home runs leading the American League with 122 runs and 123 RBI in helping his team win the AL East pennant.
The third baseman became the second Auburn alum to win the award. Former Chicago White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas won back-to-back MVP awards in 1993 and 1994.
Despite making a run to the postseason, Donaldson admitted to always keeping an eye on Auburn where he loves to “stay involved.”
“If I couldn’t catch a game because we were playing I would always go back to see what I missed,” Donaldson said.
When Donaldson does get back to work, it will be with the same intense work ethic and humble attitude that’s made him one of the best players in baseball.
“You definitely have to stay focused to try to learn and get better,” Donaldson said.