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Derek Jeter welcomes Darnell McDonald to the Yankees by making him cut his hair

07.06.12 at 6:31 pm ET
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Darnell McDonald’s path as a major leaguers has experienced more than a few twists and turns. But when the 33-year-old outfielder found himself standing in front of his locker in the Fenway Park visitors clubhouse, wearing a Yankees uniform and holding a plastic bag full of hair, it was the kind of moment that nobody could have envisioned.

The first item to be digested by McDonald was just being a member of the Yankees while having to face off with his old team, the Red Sox. That was due to New York claiming the outfielder off waivers July 4 after the Sox had designated him for assignment the previous Saturday.

“My agent [Terry Bross] called me the other day and said I got picked up by the Yankees. I thought he was joking, but he said [New York general manager Brian] Cashman was going to call me. Cashman called and I talked to him,” McDonald said. “This is the last team I would have thought I would be with. You go through the process you start thinking to yourself what team needs outfielders. I never thought about the Yankees, but if you have to leave an organization like the Red Sox, to be able to come here, it’s pretty good.

“Every time I think about it, I’m like, ‘Is this really happening?’ You get an opportunity to play against the team that released you, No. 1, but then right away, and at Fenway,” he said. “This is the funniest part about it: the fans think I chose to go play for the Yankees. That’s the perception. It’s tough leaving over there. There are a lot of great people and a lot of relationships. It hurts. Now, obviously, it feels good to be playing ball and be at the yard. This place that has a place in my heart. It’s where a lot of my dreams as a kid where able to come true.”

Then there is the hair …

McDonald, who had grown out his dreadlocks for 2 1/2 years, was hoping he might be able to dance around the Yankees’ strict policy regarding length of hair and facial hair. No such luck.

“That was the first thing I asked,” he said. “I talked to the hitting coach [Kevin Long], asking him ‘Do I have to cut my hair?’ He was like, ‘Nah.’ But I still had some reservations. I came in here today early, a couple of guys came in and said, ‘You better cut that before the players get here.’ So I texted a picture to Jeter and asked him, ‘Yea,’ or ‘Nea,’ and he told me, ‘Cut it off, it’s a new beginning.’ So in honor of The Boss and The Captain … I want to be a part of the team, so I cut it off

“I’ve been growing my locks out the last 2 1/2 years. It’s been a long time. I have a clean-shaven face. It feels weird.”

So, with the orders from Jeter on his phone, McDonald walked into the back of the visitors clubhouse at approximately 3 p.m. and executed the unthinkable.

“I’m going to see if they can sew it back in or something. I don’t want to let go,” he said, holding a plastic bag full of the hair. “You know what went into this? It took a lot to even start it, and then the journey of going through it and the process … But in honor of The Boss and after talking to the captain, being a Yankee and wanting to coming in being part of the guys. This is how The Boss runs the ship.

“I wanted to cry. I had just got them twisted up. That’s my energy. It’s a new beginning. I’ve got a new swag. It’s the Yankee way.”

There was also the matter of derailing the budding television career of his daughter, Jiana, who had established a regular interview segment on NESN.

“My daughter is mad still,” he said. “I told her we might be able to get hooked up with the YES Network. When I told her she asked me if I could leave her here.”

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