Bulletin photo by Pauline Hamwey
written by KEN HAMWEY, Bulletin Sports Editor
Being referred to as “a student of the game” is one of the finest compliments a coach can receive. Meet Scott McDonald, who fits that description perfectly.
The 37-year-old Bellingham native (pictured right), who’s been the junior-varsity baseball coach at Bellingham High for the last 14 years, wasn’t a dynamic player, but his coaching style, knowledge and ability make him a valuable asset at all levels of the Blackhawks’ program.
His jayvee teams have experienced only two sub-.500 seasons in 14 years, and those two squads posted 8-9 records. His 2014 contingent went 20-0 in the same year that the varsity team won the state title, and last spring’s squad posted a 17-1 record, which was achieved with nine freshmen and four eighth-graders.
McDonald, however, isn’t just about wins and losses. He’s more. Much more.
The middle school science teacher, whose first coaching post was as a 17-year-old in Bellingham’s youth program, is acutely aware that his role at the jayvee level is to develop players and get them ready for varsity assignments.
“To see kids grow and develop their skills is very rewarding,” he said, “and to eventually see them compete at the varsity level is great. It’s why I coach.”
To hear McDonald speak of goals, coaching philosophy and the attributes players need to succeed is like being at a baseball seminar. What he emphasizes, his teams execute.
“At the jayvee level, my focus is to help players reach their potential,” McDonald said. “We also look at the team’s weaknesses and we strive to strengthen them. If we do those two things, then winning follows. Our team goals include improving daily, finishing over .500, winning every home game and not losing to a team twice. I also mirror what varsity coach TJ Chiappone emphasizes to his players—being disciplined, committed and having respect for the game.”
When assembling a roster, McDonald obviously wants players who possess technical
skills and have a high baseball IQ, but he also looks for what he calls “intangible assets”:
passion for the game, a strong work ethic and a coachable nature.
“It’s important for kids to be working hard in practice, especially when the coach isn’t looking,” McDonald noted. “I also want them to become a student of the game.”
McDonald started playing baseball at six years old. He competed on the jayvees his first two years at BHS, then reached varsity status as a junior. He played first base and the outfield and sometimes pitched. Defense was his strength.
“I didn’t play as a senior because I got an opportunity to be an assistant coach in the Little League program,” he recalled. “At a young age, I knew that coaching and working with kids was what I wanted to do. At 17, I became head coach of the Summer Sizzler Team, which was a squad of 11- and 12-year-olds. That was my first team and went 9-5. That was a great learning experience because I understood what worked and what didn’t.”
After two years as the Sizzlers’ coach, McDonald became an assistant at the Major-League Level, coaching 10-12-year-olds. He was an aide for three years, then took the head coaching post of the Bellingham Lions for 12 years and won a championship at that level. He later coached the Orioles.
During his high school days, McDonald was a member of student council and also became president of the National Honor Society. After graduation in 1999, he enrolled at Assumption College but later transferred to Framingham State, where he majored in English.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2003, he later got his master’s at Framingham State in curriculum and instructional technology. He was hired at the Bellingham Memorial Middle School in 2004 and for the last 14 years has taught English and science.
Being a schoolteacher and remaining active in youth baseball have played key roles in McDonald’s success as a coach. “Whether it’s in the classroom or in the youth league, I know the kids’ emotional and physical abilities,” he said. “I’ve developed relationships long before the kids ever get to the jayvees.”
A fan of Chiappone, who has led the BHS varsity to tourney play for 21 consecutive years, McDonald beams when that statistic is mentioned, primarily because he’s done his part in preparing those players for their roles.
“TJ and I talk often and it’s my goal to support his program,” McDonald emphasized. “I love the streak that’s been compiled. We’re fortunate to have good kids.”
Chiappone is very aware of McDonald’s value. “Scott is dedicated and invested in the program,” Chiappone said. “His small-ball tactics get kids ready for the varsity. He’s a major asset to our program and he’s got great rapport, not only with jayvee players but also with the varsity kids too.”
At the pro level, McDonald is an admirer of manager Terry Francona.
“He knows his players and he develops good relationships with them,” McDonald said. “At the local level, coaches who’ve been so helpful and impactful in my life are Gary Nelson and Dan Haddad, and former players Joe Mangine and Reed Pike have helped in summer league and with the jayvees.”
McDonald’s most memorable game occurred in 2016, while coaching the 14—15-year-old team in the Hockomock Summer League. His squad trailed North Attleboro, 8-1, in the fifth inning. “I told our kids that we were going to make it tough for them to get the next nine outs,” McDonald recalled. “We bounced back and won, 9-8, and three of those players are on the varsity now--Mike Reissfelder, Ben Youkilis and Corey Chiappone.”
His top thrill in coaching came in 2014 when his jayvees finished 20-0 and the varsity defeated Monument Mountain for the State title.
“We had motivated and passionate kids on the jayvees,” he said. “Then, to see the varsity win the state crown was exciting. Both levels enjoyed success and it showed that all our hard work had paid off.”
McDonald, who hopes to be a varsity coach, almost realized that goal when he applied last year at King Philip Regional. He was one of the two finalists, but the job went to Greg Kessler, who had been Franklin’s jayvee coach.
“Hopefully, one day I’ll get an opportunity,” McDonald said. “The interview process, however, was a great learning experience.”
Calling his parents (Jim and Marydeane) role models for their support and encouragement, McDonald has become a role model for many of his players- past and present, and he’s been an unsung hero, quietly developing talent and stressing the basics that lead to success.
Scott McDonald has posted some dynamic numbers as a coach, but he’s more about building character than boasting about winning percentages. He’s a student of the game and there can be no better label for a coach.