Two days after attending the funeral for his dad, John McDonald's first at-bat back with the Blue Jays led to a home run on Father's Day. As the baseball ducked over the left-field wall for a two-run shot in the ninth, McDonald could not help but pump his fist a little as he rounded first base.
McDonald later fought back tears when asked what thoughts were running through his mind.
"Probably the fact that I couldn't call my dad after the game to tell him," McDonald said.
The home run ignited a late three-run rally for the Blue Jays (38-32), who simply could not overcome the seven runs yielded by their bullpen or the uncharacteristic five-walk, five-inning showing from starter Shaun Marcum. Toronto slipped to 5-7 in Interleague Play and had its modest three-game winning streak halted.
In the end, though, none of that seemed to matter.
While sprinting around the bases, McDonald shook hands with third-base coach Brian Butterfield and was met at home plate by Fred Lewis. Upon reaching the dugout, McDonald was swarmed by players and coaches, who offered high-fives and hugs. The veteran infielder then disappeared into the tunnel, where he was met by Vernon Wells and a handful of teammates.
Outside, the crowd chanted, "Johnny Mac! Johnny Mac!"
"We cried on each other's shoulder for a good 30 seconds," Wells said. "When it went out, it was instant goosebumps. It kind of puts everything in perspective on whether you had a good day or a bad day at the plate or in the field. Wins and losses don't really matter at that point.
"That's one of the most special moments that I've gotten to see in this game. It couldn't happen to a better person. I think that was the happiest loss that any of us have encountered in our professional careers."
Marcum watched things unfold from the Jays' clubhouse.
"What Johnny Mac did there in the ninth," Marcum said, "that's something that's pretty special."
McDonald rejoined the Blue Jays on Saturday morning after spending the past two weeks back home in Connecticut to be with his family and at the side of his ailing father, Jack. After an eight-month battle with cancer, Jack McDonald finally succumbed Tuesday morning at the age of 60.
Prior to Sunday's game, McDonald's teammates presented him with a Blue Jays jersey bearing each of their signatures, Jack's name and No. 25 -- the number he wore throughout his umpiring career in East Lyme, Conn., and neighboring towns. Wells said the present was a "sign we're with you" for McDonald.
"That was quite touching this morning, too, for most of us," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "To see Mac hit a home run on Father's Day is great. It's something he won't ever forget, and I won't either, really. It's a tough loss, but a win in a lot of other ways."
McDonald -- in his 12th Major League season -- credits his father for molding him into the type of player and person that he is today. McDonald has always been known for his dynamic plays on defense and getting the most out of his ability. The latter is a lesson Jack McDonald emphasized throughout John's youth.
One thing McDonald -- with 14 career homers -- has never been known for is belting long balls. That is one reason he cracked a smile in the wake of his most recent blast -- one he won't soon forget. McDonald smirked because before he returned to the Blue Jays, Jack McDonald had a request for his son.
"We had talked about the type of player I am before I came back," McDonald said, "and the fact that I don't hit a lot of home runs. He said, 'Hit your next one for me.' So the fact that I got that out of the way quick was nice. I told him, 'They're not that easy to hit.'"
McDonald might not have had the opportunity had Gaston not sent him out to second base as a defensive replacement with the Blue Jays trailing, 9-3, in the ninth. That was a nice gesture, considering the significance of Father's Day this year for McDonald.
McDonald said his dad felt it was important for John to be back in Toronto on Sunday, too. Before the game, McDonald hosted a group of children who won a Father's Day contest that allowed them to bring their dads to the ballpark to watch batting practice and take in the game.
They witnessed much more than that.
"My dad was kind of happy for me to come back," McDonald said. "He wanted me to be back here for Father's Day, which was nice. We had a good event with some kids today before the game. The guys in here have been great.
"It's a little bittersweet losing the game. I'm not usually happy or excited postgame after a loss, but it was a special moment for our family."