Donnie Magruder: The Heart and Mind of a Winner
Once in a while, amidst the hustle and bustle of day to day social networking, someone rises out of the fray who is decidedly special and worthy of deeper scrutiny. You know, when someone you’ve only recently met shoots straight to the top of your this-person’s-really-going-to-go-places list. The person who recently topped my whole family’s list is a young, Poplar Bluff native named Donnie Magruder.
Donnie is an 18-year old Mules baseball star and son of Dave and Denise Magruder of Poplar Bluff. Denise is the office administrator for semo.net. There’s a good chance that you’re already familiar with Donnie after seeing his baseball prowess archived in our local sports pages. We met Donnie last summer when his need for extra spending money intersected with our need for someone to watch our two sons from time to time. Not usually a thing we get a guy to do but this choice proved to be one of the best we’ve ever made.
In these times when young adults get a bad rap, some well-deserved, for being largely self-absorbed, Donnie was the opposite. My sons loved him instantly and felt pretty special to have the talented likes of him playing ball with them in the back yard.
The child-care gig turned into a regular position helping coach both of semo.net’s baseball teams’ practices. Donnie went from not only inspiring my two, but two dozen other lucky local boys who got to learn from this truly gifted ball player. Aside from his obvious talent in the sport, it is his ability to connect with the younger boys that is unique and refreshing. Did I mention that he is punctual, hard-working, respectful, honest, trustworthy, charming, clean-cut and comfortable communicating with adults as well as children?
CLIPPED FROM THE DAILY AMERICAN REPUBLIC, 1998
When I was that age I could not string two intelligent sounding sentences together to answer the question of what I wanted to do after high school, so to hear Donnie clearly lay out his short and long-term goals of how to achieve what is sure to be a very exciting future, I marveled.
“I want to raise my GPA and win a district championship for baseball. After high school I want to go to college and continue to play baseball and I’m looking forward to a career as a pilot,” Donnie told me recently. When I asked him what keeps him on the right track to seeing these goals come to fruition he added, “The drive of bettering myself and baseball.” Curious as to how he avoids the destructive slippery slopes that young people so often fall victim to like drug and alcohol use and failing grades, he answered, “Inside I know that’s not what I want and that will not help me towards my goals. Plus, I wouldn’t because of baseball.”
Too few moms can say of their teenagers what Donnie’s mom, Denise, said to me when asked to describe her son:
“He is like a best friend to me. He is caring, honest, Christian, determined and dedicated, not to mention, thrill-seeking and an excellent student. He sets his goals high, reaches for them [and] doesn’t let anything stand in his way…”
Mules Coach, Shane Kearbey, shared his experience with Donnie:
“Donnie Magruder is no doubt a great student, athlete and citizen of the community. He is the most driven athlete I have ever coached. His one focus is to get better at baseball 24/7. Numerous times this football season, we would be practicing football and I could hear the sound of a bat contacting a baseball in our batting tunnel. I would know without even looking that the sound was coming from Donnie Magruder’s bat. I will drive through the parking lot at all hours of the night during the summer and Donnie will be out on the tennis courts under the lights, playing catch or enjoying a game of wiffle ball. He is constantly searching for a way to make himself a better baseball player and his parents go above and beyond to do whatever they can as well, to make him a great ball player. With the combination of his efforts and the support of his parents, I believe the sky is the limit for Donnie. I respect his work ethic and commitment to excellence. He wants to make an impact in the game of baseball and with his ability and work ethic I know that he has a great shot at that happening. No matter what happens for Donnie in the game of baseball, he will be successful in life because of the characteristics that have carried him through the game of baseball.”
Talley Haines, retired big-league pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and owner of Southeast Missouri Baseball Academy in Cape Girardeau, from whom Donnie is seeking further training, weighed in, “Donnie has a deep love for baseball, enjoys playing and wants to better himself and see how far baseball can take him after high school.”
There is just no doubt in my mind that each one of Donnie’s dreams will be realized in relative short order. He has the heart and mind of a winner and the determination and work ethic to meet and exceed every goal he sets for himself. It is heartening to know a young man who represents maturity and character worthy of emulation by young and old alike. Donnie Magruder has earned the honorable title of positive role model.
Our eyes are on you, Donnie, to learn from you, as well as simply witness firsthand, what it means to be a true winner. You make us very proud!