By Mark Gregory
When the 2017 baseball season comes to a close for Westmont, senior catcher Joe Donovan will hold several career school records – one of them will be the most wins ever as a member of the Sentinels.
That is the record Donovan will cherish most of all his accomplishments – just like his brother, Charlie did when he set the mark in 2015.
“That will be my proudest accomplishment in baseball so far,” Joe said. “I love this school and I love the people and to know that I have been a contributing factor on all those wins just makes all the long nights and early mornings worth it.”
Joe currently has 87 career wins, one behind his brother for the most all-time (88).
Joe has already surpassed Charlie in runs scored with 173 to date, as well as doubles and total hits (181).
He is also the current career leader in extra base hits with 83 and home runs with 26 (6 this season).
Joe is only two RBI away from his brother’s mark of 133.
Joe’s talent is not something that just came on the radar over the course of four years.
He was a known talent at a young age.
Joe was a freshman catcher on Westmont’s third-place team in Class 2A, he batted better than .400 that season and committed to the University of Michigan his sophomore year.
With all that ability, Donovan could easily have decided to travel each day to school and attend one of Chicago’s private school power programs.
“He could have gone to a private school, but he has put Westmont on the map. We have been there the last four years and a lot of that is because of him,” said Westmont coach DJ Cocks. “For him to come in as a freshman and help lead his team to third in state is legendary.”
Joe decided to follow Charlie and make a name for himself and the Sentinel program.
“It was big playing with my brother was huge, but just coming here and playing with these guys that I have grown up with has been great and I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else,” Joe said. “If I am fortunate to play at a higher level, then I won’t be playing with my friends, I will have to make friends with those guys. Here, I have been lucky enough that I have known these guys my whole life.
“Just coming out here every day and playing with the guys, that’s what it’s all about. I have been lucky to have had four good teams to play on and that has made it a lot of fun over the years and have made it worthwhile.”
The year Joe had with his brother is one he will never forget.
The brothers led Westmont to the third-place trophy, but Charlie, a Michigan recruit himself and the 2015 Gatorade Illinois Baseball Player of the Year, died in early November of that year.
For the last two seasons, Joe has worn Charlie’s No. 0.
“Through everything that I have gone through, baseball has been the rock that has kept me stable,” Joe said. “It has been a blast the whole time. When Charlie was still around, I told him that I would wear his number, so it wasn’t as much a memorial as it was him passing it on to me. I am beyond humble to wear it, knowing my brother had such an impact on the game here and I just love coming out here playing every day.”
While his talent may have been obvious at an early age, Cocks said Joe never stopped working hard.
“You won’t find a harder worker than he is. He puts a lot of work in. He is in the weight room, he is in the cages, I throw to him in his off period. He understands what it takes,” he said. “We bunt a lot in the cages and we know he will never bunt for us, but we know that at the next level and we have to work on that.
“He is absolutely unbelievable. To have him for four years, we have been blessed. He is the definition of everything you want in a ball player. From the way he plays, to the way he hustles, to the way he is as a leader, he brings it every day. He is just great to have. He has always been about the team. I am going to enjoy every day I have with him.
“When you see seniors go, it is always hard, but this one is going to be especially hard.”
This season, Joe is batting .568 with a 1.373 slugging percentage. In only 51 at bats, Joe has 29 hits, 22 of them for extra bases, 26 RBI and 24 runs scored. He has only struck out five times on the season.
While Joe still plans to attend Michigan next season, but is not ruling out his options if the pros come calling.
“Michigan is one of the best universities in the world,” he said. “The coaches are great, the facilities are second to none. It is an academic and athletic powerhouse with a baseball program that is on the upswing. The coaches are amazing and the people are family and there is no place I would rather be committed to. The options are still open. I am just playing ball this Spring, trying to add more wins and hoping for the best. If everything goes well, I will be playing baseball either way.
“It is what you grow up dreaming about. I feel beyond blessed to have the opportunities I have and to be playing this game I love and maybe to have it as a career one day. It is every American kids dream and I am living that dream.”