Osborne gives back to local kids, community
Donovan Osborne was 8 years old when he saw his first live baseball game at Candlestick Park.
“I was a Giants fan growing up,” he said, sipping on a cool drink at Starbucks earlier this week. “I went to the game with my uncle and cousin. Vida Blue was pitching that day, and he was amazing. I told my uncle I was going to do that (play pro baseball) when I got older.”
Millions of little boys have that dream when playing sandlot or Little League baseball, but for very few does it come to fruition. Osborne was one of the fortunate ones.
Osborne, after a great career and Carson High and three years at UNLV, went on to have a nine-year injury riddled MLB career which ended in 2004 after he went 2-0 with the New York Yankees. He ended up with a 49-46 record and a 4.03 ERA. He was in Triple A twice after that, once with Albuquerque and once with Omaha, but never got a chance to put on a Major League uniform again.
Osborne is taking time out from his schedule to hold a baseball clinic, sponsored by the Carson Community Center, at Carson High School at 9 a.m. July 22. Part of the proceeds from the event will benefit autism. Osborne and his wife of 10 years, Herah, have twin 7-year-olds who carry the Fragile-X Syndrome.
“I was blessed with God-given talent; things that you can’t teach,” Osborne said. “It was given to me by the Lord. I’ve had a lot of teammates and coaches help me along the way, too.”
Osborne’s success was no surprise to Ron McNutt, who coached Osborne at Carson High in the mid-80s.
“He had a great high school career,” McNutt said. “He was one of the top players (in the state). He had special talent, and there was never a doubt that he would play at the next level. After that it was going to be up to him to take the next step.”
Osborne was 35-12 on the mound in three years at UNLV for coach Fred Dallimore. He also played some first base and outfield because he was such a great athlete and good hitter.
Osborne’s rise to the majors was meteoric. He was the 13th pick overall in the 1990 draft and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was in the majors in two years.
He spent the rest of 1990 playing in Canada and Florida, posting a 2-4 record. He was promoted to Double A Little Rock the following season, and got off to an 0-8 start which prompted a visit from ex-Cardinal great Ted Simmons, who was a special assistant with the Cardinals.
“I was really a mess,” Osborne said. “Ted Simmons comes in and he’s ticked off at me. He asked me what the hell was going on. He said he could be eating popcorn at Busch Stadium and instead he has to come here (to Arkansas) to straighten me out.”
Whatever transpired between the two must have helped, because Osborne went on to post an 8-12 record with a very respectable 3.63 ERA.
Osborne went to training camp with the Cardinals in 1992, and made the 25-man roster at age 22.
His first start was a memorable one, but not for the reasons you might think. He started against the New York Mets, and the first hitter he faced was the speedy Vince Coleman.
Coleman dropped a bunt down, and while going over the field it, Osborne got his cleat caught on the turf. He had his ankle taped and lasted two more innings before coming out.
He went out and won his next start against Montreal. When the smoke cleared after his rookie season, Osborne had posted a 11-9 record with a 3.77 ERA.
He was in contention for Rookie of the Year honors, an award that ultimately went to Eric Karros of the Dodgers. Osborne was fifth in the balloting.
“I think I should have gotten it,” said Osborne, who was just showing his potential.
In 1993, he made 24 starts and posted a 10-7 record with a 3.71 ERA. However, that’s when he started having injury issues.
“I had some tenderness in my arm,” Osborne said. “The manager (Joe Torre) and the trainer said there was nothing wrong and to just ice my arm.
“I went to Torre again and told him there has to be something wrong with my arm. I was throwing a bullpen, I think we were in LA, and I felt pain from my shoulder to my fingers. I tossed the ball to the pitching coach Joe Coleman. Two days after Christmas I had surgery.”
Osborne re-habbed the entire 1994 season, but returned to the Cardinals in 1995. He went 4-6 with a 3.81 and also spent time in the minors where he went 0-2.
Many thought Osborne, who threw in the low 90s and had great command, might have been through. The naysayers were wrong. He bounced back in 1996 to have the best year of his career with a 13-9 record and a 3.53 ERA. He threw a career-best 198 innings and was among the leaders in strikeout-to-walk ratio.
He beat the Braves and Tom Glavine in a playoff game, 3-2. The Braves, however, battled back from a 3-1 deficit to win the playoff series. Osborne took the loss in Game 7.
His 13 wins were impressive, simply because the Cardinals’ offense that year mirrored this year’s Giants’ offense.
“From 92 to 95, we played hit, bunt and steal,” Osborne said. “If you gave up two runs, you might lose.”
From 1997 to 2004, Osborne’s years were hampered by shoulder problems. Osborne went 11-15 in that span. He was out of baseball in 2000, 2001 and 2003. In 2002, he appeared in just 11 games.
He went 2-0 with the Yankees in 2004, but was eventually released.
What followed were a few seasons in independent baseball, two with Long Island and one with Bridgeport. After going 2-4 with Long Island, he was signed by the Marlins and sent to their Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque where he posted a 5-3 record.
“I thought I should get called up,” Osborne said. “We were in first place, and they decided to keep me down to help them win a ring.”
In 2006, he got a call from Dave LaPointe, who had coached him in Long Island. LaPointe was in Bridgeport and offered Osborne a spot on his roster.
“I was at a crossroads,” Osborne said. “I didn’t know if I could give 110 percent. It was tough.”
That’s because he’d recently found out that his son, D.J. had been diagnosed with Fragile X, the leading cause of Autism.
After talking to his wife, he decided to keep playing. He went 2-1 with Bridgeport and had his contract picked up by the Kansas City Royals, who sent him to Triple A Omaha. He posted an 0-6 record and hated his time there.
“The team was horrible,” he said. “It was a bad place. I did nothing for the first 10 days I was there. The team was gone for 30 straight days (partially because of the College World Series).”
He spent the 2007 season with Long Island, posting a 6-5 record. He returned to Long Island in 2008 and went 0-4, and called it a career on July 4.
“I don’t have any regrets. I got a chance to put on a uniform and play with and compete against Hall of Famers. I had a great career.”
A DAY WITH DONOVAN
What: Baseball Clinic
Where: Carson High School
When: July 22, 9 a.m. There will be more than one session depending on the
amount of registrations.
Cost: $75. Portions of the proceeds will benefit the Nevada Coalition for Autism.