Only one number doesn't explain Donovan

  • Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Charlie Donovan of Westmont takes a swing during the Lisle at Westmont baseball game Tuesday.

    Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Charlie Donovan of Westmont takes a swing during the Lisle at Westmont baseball game Tuesday.

  • Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Charlie Donovan of Westmont reaches for a ball during the Lisle at Westmont baseball game Tuesday.

    Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Charlie Donovan of Westmont reaches for a ball during the Lisle at Westmont baseball game Tuesday.

  • Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Charlie Donovan of Westmont takes throws to first during the Lisle at Westmont baseball game Tuesday.

    Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Charlie Donovan of Westmont takes throws to first during the Lisle at Westmont baseball game Tuesday.

  • Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Charlie Donovan of Westmont scoups up a grounder during the Lisle at Westmont baseball game Tuesday.

    Paul Michna/pmichna@dailyherald.com ¬ Charlie Donovan of Westmont scoups up a grounder during the Lisle at Westmont baseball game Tuesday.

 
 
Updated 6/11/2015 10:02 AM

There's a glaring contradiction in Charlie Donovan's glistening four years of high school baseball.

For the last four years he's worn the No. 0 on his Westmont uniform, and for the last four years he's driven himself to play in complete contrast of it.

 

In a sport defined by numbers, Donovan's been a monster. He flat-out defied the goose egg on his back.

"When I was a freshman there weren't any other single digits available, so we checked with the IHSA and they said No. 0 was OK to wear," he said. "I guess it's worked out for me."

It's difficult to imagine baseball working out any better for Donovan.

After a senior season every bit worthy of a remarkable four years on varsity, Donovan is the 2015 Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Baseball Captain.

Westmont's shortstop carried the program to newfound heights while vaulting his level of play to the point where he'll play at the University of Michigan. The sky appears to be the limit for the Gatorade Player of the Year in Illinois.

"He's the most talented player I've ever coached against, and he's an even better kid," said Lisle coach Pete Meyer. "He's the kind of kid you just hope does well in the future."

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Can't miss kid

When Donovan was a fourth-grader -- the son of Karen and Jim Donovan, a former player at Oak Park-River Forest and the University of Illinois and an instructor at Strikes Baseball Academy in Broadview -- he'd play a competitive game of catch with his younger brother Joe where you'd earn points for throwing the ball to your opponent with varying degrees of accuracy.

One day Joe got the better of Charlie and won two straight games. Always the competitor, Charlie's frustration showed in the third game when he fired a ball so hard that it skipped off the top of Joe's glove, loosened a tooth and bloodied his nose.

Right then and there, Joe knew Charlie was bound for greatness.

"Even after all the accolades, he's still the same guy I used to play catch with in the front yard," said Joe, who just finished his sophomore year at Westmont. "I'm not at all surprised at the level of play he's achieved, but one of the things I really like about him is that he lets his play on the field speak for itself. He's never bragging about himself."

Over a four-year span, you'd be hard-pressed to find a player tougher to keep off the bases than Donovan. And once he did reach base, a nonstop motor and wicked speed made it hurt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"If you're confident and have that same mentality every time up, you can put up some pretty cool numbers," said Charlie, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs about 180 pounds. "I just try to maximize what I have to the fullest."

A model of consistent excellence from his first varsity game as a freshman, he posted a .478 batting average. He's in the IHSA record books among the top 20 players for runs scored (172), triples (17) and stolen bases (123) in varsity play. Donovan had 19 home runs, 81 extra-base hits and drove in 133 runs.

"The only reason I've been able to stay consistent is because of how much I love playing," he said. "Baseball's my No. 1 priority other than school and family, so I have pretty high expectations for myself."

Donovan led off as a freshman, hit third as a sophomore and junior, then returned to lead off this season, when he batted .483 with 7 home runs, 33 RBI, 64 runs scored and 44 stolen bases.

With a devastating combination of burgeoning power and unmatched speed, Donovan tore up opposing teams. Bolstered by a cannon arm, he was brilliantly smooth at shortstop.

Donovan led Westmont to 88 victories, including the program's first Interstate Eight Conference titles, two regional and sectional titles and a third-place finish in Class 2A last season. The Sentinels' 30 wins this season broke the program record.

"He's been truly a leader this year," said Westmont coach D.J. Cocks. "He's always had the five tools, but he's gotten faster and he's added the power. And he does stuff that blows you away defensively."

A giant leap

It wasn't difficult to spot the half dozen Major League Baseball scouts watching Donovan play at nearly every Westmont game this season. He'd also hold personal batting practice sessions for the scouts.

While Donovan did a great job blocking out the distraction, the lifelong Chicago Cubs fan admits the scene became especially surreal when he'd talk to former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, now a Yankees scout.

Despite the lure of pro baseball -- and varying draft projections that had him going in the first handful of rounds -- Donovan told the interested MLB teams that he'd prefer to honor his commitment to Michigan.

Becoming a pro baseball player is his ultimate goal, has been since he was a 10-year-old. For now, though, he wants to be a student-athlete and try out that 4.3 grade-point average in Ann Arbor.

"Every single day the one thing in my mind has been trying to become a Major League Baseball player," said Donovan, drafted Wednesday by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 30th round of the MLB draft. "But I couldn't see myself going into that lifestyle yet. It's a big decision, but I've decided going to college is best for me right now."

Two years from now he'll be joined by Joe, a catcher who fell in love with the Ann Arbor campus when he joined his older brother on recruiting visits. Joe, who this season hit .454 with 10 homers and 43 RBI, also is committed to Michigan.

Family, school and baseball. Together again.

"I recognize how far I've come, but I know I still have a long way to go," Donovan said. "The journey's just continuing."

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