26 Jun 19
The Scottish Sun
FOOTIE commentator Mark Donaldson has hit a home run after being handpicked to be the British face of US baseball.
The Edinburgh pundit relocated to Connecticut in 2010 with missus Lainey when he joined broadcast giants ESPN to cover Italian footie.
Mark relocated to the US in 2010
But he recently landed a major presenting gig on new show Caps Off alongside SportsCenter anchor Phil Murphy.
And now the 41-year-old hopes his career curveball is the perfect pitch to introduce new fans to the sport.
Baseball fan catches foul ball in cup before downing beer to send Chicago Cubs and New York Mets crowd wild
Mark says: “My bosses came and asked if I knew anyone British who would be interested in co-hosting a baseball show.
“I think they were looking for a young, handsome 20-something but I said ‘How about me, I like baseball?’.
“I didn’t come over here as a TV guy. But at ESPN you never say no to any good opportunity.
“I’m just a commentator who is trying to become a presenter so I’m learning all the time.
Mark said he couldn’t turn down the opportunity
“We want people to give baseball a try. You get the naysayers who say it’s just glorified rounders but it’s fun and a great three hours of sport.
“We want to give people the best teams, best players and showcase the quirky, great and good of each team so those who want to be fans of baseball can pick a team.
“It would be great to give casual viewers and new fans the opportunity to find their affiliation.”
After starting out with Radio Forth, Mark could never have guessed he’d end up the star of a show on US TV. ‘If you know your stuff, you’ll get a chance’
And he admits he was as surprised as anyone when he was offered the Caps Off job after bosses screentested dozens of more experienced and easy-on-the-eye candidates.
But he was willing to swing for the fences after being on cloud nine following the birth of one-year-old daughter Ava Grace.
Mark was surprised at being offered the baseball gig
He says: “I don’t know if I want to be a showman, I got the job because of who I am.
“It’s not about looks but I think personality brings out the best in the people you work with.
“Phil’s in the gym twice a day and is a man mountain but he’s the nicest guy you’d meet. But he has Popeye-like biceps and I’m maybe a few stones overweight.
“And that’s the whole ethos I appreciate here. I remember being in Scotland, when we watched TV it looked like you had to be skinny and good-looking and that there weren’t many chances for people like me.
“But it’s changed now. You see someone like James Corden, who is a similar size to me, but he’s got personality and he’s self-deprecating and endearing.
“I’m not saying I’m him, but there are opportunities in America for people who aren’t size zero females or good-looking guys. If you know your stuff you’ll get a chance.”
Sports junkie Mark — who still commentates on football matches — admits he’s had a ball since Caps Off launched.
Mark has been loving covering the baseball so far
Later this month he’ll be in London for Major League Baseball’s first-ever showpiece game in the UK when Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees play each other.
And he’s already visited some of America’s top baseball stadiums and interviewed big-name players, such as All-Star Los Angeles Angels ace Mike Trout who signed a whopping 12-year £335million contract last year — more than football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
And unlike the secrecy around footie faves, Mark regularly shoots the breeze with baseball’s biggest and richest names.
He admits: “It’s so different over here. In Scotland I felt the media were viewed as something to not give too much away to.
“In the States we are viewed as helpful to get things out there. You get a press conference with the manager a few hours before a game and then access to the locker room and field.
“It’s hard to envisage Neil Lennon or Steven Gerrard giving an interview two hours before a game and reporters all over the field after full-time.
“Mike Trout is one of the best in the game and they told him he had to do an interview with us.
“He was more than happy to do it regardless, but they don’t get the opportunity to say no because clubs believe it’s in their best interests to reach a wider audience like we do with Caps Off in the UK.”
Mark — who helped write ex-Liverpool and Scotland hero Steve Nicol’s biography — now lives just minutes from Steve and fellow Scots expat and former Celtic star Craig Burley.
Mark lives near fellow Scots Steve Nicol and Craig Burley
The trio have made a name for themselves in America and Mark insists more people should make the jump.
He adds: “We have our own little Scottish enclave. We don’t hang out as much anymore because those two play golf and are much better than me.
“I’ve had a few invites but when it became clear I wasn’t as good those dried up.
“Moving here has worked out well for me and we are very happy. If anyone is humming and hawing about doing it, I’d say give it a go.
“The whole country is full of opportunities and I’ve managed things I didn’t think possible. My mantra was I’d rather do it and regret it than having never tried it at all.”
And now Mark has his sights set on an even bigger goal – becoming the first Brit to present SportsCenter.
Mark admits: “I don’t know what the future holds but my contract expires in August 2020 and that’s 10 years with the company — I fully intend to sign a new one if offered.
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“I know many people who I work with will be ahead of me in the pecking order.
“But then who would have thought I’d ever do a baseball show? Let’s see where it all leads.”
Watch Caps Off on BT Sport every Thursday.