clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

CGB Hall of Fame: (4) Mike MacDonald vs. (13) Devon Rodriguez

The greatest American rugby player ever, Mike MacDonald, faces off against Devon Rodriguez, who helped save Cal Baseball from being cut entirely, in the last matchup of this weekend's CGB Hall of Fame slate.

(4) Mike MacDonald

Calbears03 introduces Mike MacDonald:

Mac is considered by most rugby fans to be the greatest American rugby player ever. Between 2000-2004 he was a 5-time All American at Cal and won 4 National Championships. As a professional for Leeds in England, he became the first American to be named Captain to a Pemiership team. Furthermore, he was the youngest player to ever start for Team USA, and is America's all-time most capped player (meaning international matches started) playing in 3 World Cups.

Cal truly runs in MacDonald's blood as well. After retiring from professional and international rugby, MacDonald returned to the Bay Area to become an assistant coach for Cal Rugby under long-time head coach Jack Clark. Clark's own words about MacDonald:

"‘Big Mac' is truly a singular figure in the history of American rugby," Clark said. "He's consistently demonstrated unwavering sportsmanship and loyalty to team and country. His retirement closes out a generation of our most distinguished internationals. We can only say thanks."

For more on MacDonald, check out our very own interview of the Cal Rugby legend from 2011:

1. What got you interested in playing rugby initially?

1. Well, my brother started playing when I was a freshman in high school while he was a senior. The next year, all of his teammates were asking me to come out, so I decided to give it a try. Plus it was a great way to bridge the gap between the end of wrestling season and the start of football season.

2. What got you interested in playing rugby at Cal?

2. I've always been a Golden Bear, since the day I was born. My dad played football and rugby while he was at Cal and then when he graduated, he went on to be an assistant coach for the football team. After a few years of playing rugby for Lamorinda, I had the chance to come to Cal and further my career and jumped at the chance.

(13) Devon Rodriguez

Devon, who now plays with the Rockford Aviators of the Frontier League, had one of the most storied careers Cal Baseball has ever seen. He finished his senior season with the Golden Bears as a member of the first-team All-Pac-12 Team, and finished his time at Cal with a .280 batting average and 212 hits and 130 runs batted in.

In 2011, as a sophomore, he drove in the winning run in absolutely dramatic fashion to defeat the Baylor Bears to help Cal advance to the NCAA Super Regionals, the first time the Golden Bears had ever done so since the field had been expanded to 64 teams.

Because Cal had lost the first game of the tournament, the Bears had to defeat Alcorn State, top-seeded Rice, and Baylor in win-or-go-home fashion to even advance. And advance they did, to a Super Regional they hosted... not at Edwards Diamond, but at Santa Clara's Stephen Schott Stadium.

And the reason why Cal hosted the NCAA Super Regional in the South Bay instead of on campus is the reason why Devon's game winning hit against Baylor is more than just a hit, or a run batted in, or a win, for the Cal Baseball community. Edwards Diamond could not host a NCAA Super Regional because it did not have lights and was not suitable for a televised game. And Edwards Diamond did not have lights because Cal at the time had severe budget shortfalls, which not only threatened the possibility of evening games at Edwards, but the existence of the Cal Baseball program altogether.

In September 2010, Cal announced that baseball, men's and women's gymnastics, women's lacrosse and rugby would be cut in a budget move. While that announcement galvanized the Cal community to raise funds to ensure that these sports would survive, the 2011 season was one of immense uncertainty for the baseball team. Many transferred to other programs. Devon was among those who stayed in Berkeley, and while it was in every way a team effort, Devon's game-winning hit against Baylor served as an all-too-appropriate climax to one of most tumultuous and yet rewarding seasons in Cal Baseball history.