Kelowna native Isiah McDonald is heading for a career in professional baseball.
The 25-year-old accepted a job with the New York Yankees organization to be a strength and performance coach, specializing in on-field speed and agility.
During the start of the pandemic, McDonald used his passion for working out and training to start his own business called Instinctive Performance, which he ran privately online and in-person at a baseball facility in Kamloops. After a couple of months, McDonald was seeing some success as his clientele grew, working with local athletes in multiple sports. At the same time, he saw an internship opportunity to work with high-performance trainer Eric Cressey.
Throughout his college baseball career, McDonald followed Cressey on social media. Cressey is the director of player health and performance for the Yankees and the owner of Cressey Sports Performance.
McDonald applied and got accepted for the internship, heading to Cressey’s private training facility in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“He’s the guru of baseball training,” said McDonald.
McDonald spent six months in Florida where Cressey took him under his wing. After the internship was over, Cressey offered McDonald a job at his facility, but he decided to take his new knowledge and teach Canadian athletes back at home.
At the start of this past winter, MLB went into a lockout and players weren’t allowed to train at their team facilities. More than 100 players went to Cressey’s gym for their off-season training, overwhelming the facility. That’s when Cressey gave McDonald another call to come back down and further his internship for another three months.
Over that time, McDonald got to work with major and minor league baseball players as well as athletes from other sports. In his last week in Florida, he was working with NFL quarterback Jacoby Brissett when Cressey walked up and joked with McDonald about getting him a job with the Yankees. Later that day, the joke quickly became serious and they got started on the paperwork.
“It’s hard to say no to the Yankees,” said McDonald.
Born in Vancouver, McDonald played his first baseball season when he was eight years old before he and his family moved to Grand Forks. He went on to play in Grand Forks, Trail before playing high school baseball in Kamloops. He later moved to Kelowna but returned to Kamloops as he recognized it as a better opportunity for playing ball. After high school, McDonald stayed in Kamloops as he was accepted to Thompson Rivers University as well as on its baseball team.
In his career at TRU, McDonald played under former major league pitcher Ray Chadwick, and batted .309 with seven doubles, three triples, one home run, 19 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 49 games and was named an all-conference outfielder in 2015. During that time, he also suffered a long list of injuries, including a torn hamstring, developing arthritis in four disks in his back and dislocating both shoulders in a two-week span.
McDonald would then move-on to UBC, graduating in 2019 with a Bachelor of Kinesiology degree and a minor in psychology.
He says has an addiction to baseball.
“Growing up, you always want to play as long as possible, and that was kind of always my goal,” said McDonald. “I just had some injuries and it’s almost like your strengths kind of find you. I think through those injuries, I really studied the body because I wanted to keep playing. I think it made me very passionate for working out and training and movement. Just the way my life has played out, it’s kind of the path I’m supposed to be in.”
He doesn’t know what level he’ll be at yet for this season, but he’ll be starting at the spring training complex in Tampa, Florida. He said he could be with one of the minor league teams or at the spring training facility all season long, as that is where injured players, rehab during the season. Two of the Yankees minor league teams also play in Tampa out of the spring training complex.
McDonald will continue his own business while working for the Yankees. He bought a training app online and created videos of hundreds of exercises that his clientele can watch and use and he’ll keep in communication with them when he can. He also co-hosts a Canadian baseball podcast called, The Battery Podcast.