NEW YORK -- When the A's made their first trip to New York for a Yankees series last spring, Josh Donaldson said he was just happy to be on the All-Star ballot. Then he was left off the American League roster that summer during a breakout season at third base, and even AL manager Jim Leyland wound up apologizing for not being able to find him a roster spot.
One year later, everyone seems to have noticed Donaldson's work.
"I really appreciate the support that I've been given," Donaldson said early Tuesday afternoon at the MLB Fan Cave, where he taped a segment for that night's episode of the weekly "Off the Bat" show on MTV2. "The fan voting's been great so far. Hopefully, I can continue to go out and play where these people believe that I deserve to be the starting third baseman."
Donaldson finished May with a Major League-leading 48 runs scored, the most in a rich history of A's baseball, and he enters the Yankees series with a .284 average, 15 homers, 48 RBIs and a .927 OPS.
With Detroit's Miguel Cabrera having moved to first base, the hot corner has been all Donaldson's so far, according to fans, who are voting with the All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot sponsored by Experian. When the second weekly AL update was announced by Major League Baseball on Monday, Donaldson continued to lead at third, with 956,811 votes -- well ahead of Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay (589,621) and Adrian Beltre of Texas (497,876).
"It just takes me back to 2012, where at one point I was probably the worst baseball player in the game, to now, where I have an opportunity to maybe start an All-Star Game," Donaldson said.
Donaldson grew up in Alabama with a poster of Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux on his wall, and those Braves aces represented All-Star status to him. Today, Donaldson's all-out and competitive nature is winning over fans, as well as fantasy owners who are banking on him.
"He's a competitor, and his at-bats are even better in big situations," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He loves having the ball hit to him with the game on the line. He likes to be the guy up at the plate with the game on the line. He's not afraid of that spotlight. When you talk about gamers, he is one of those guys."
The reasons for Donaldson's turnaround in 2012 are well-documented, but he reiterated the point on Tuesday.
"There are a couple [of reasons], but you know just getting comfortable in my environment, having confidence in the ability I had," Donaldson said. "When I got the opportunity -- the last time in 2012 -- everything just really took off."
Watch the "Off the Bat" episode and you will see Donaldson on the set as the in-studio guest, chatting with MTV2 hosts Sway, a devout A's fan from Oakland, and Chris Distefano.
"It was interesting," Donaldson said of the shoot. "Sway's from Oakland, so it made it pretty personal for him, so it was great. He really enjoys where he's from, and being an Athletics fan and especially since we're winning, it's easier for him out here on the East Coast to talk about us.
"I just think it gives everybody a different look into how I am off the field. Because baseball, everything's competitive. This is more of a relaxed and fun time to joke around."
The two Bay Area teams have the best record in the Majors so far, with the A's leading the AL at 35-22 (.614), 4 1/2 games up on an Angels club they just swept at home. Donaldson was 5-for-12 with two homers, seven RBIs and four runs in that three-game series. After these three games at Yankee Stadium, the A's go to Baltimore for three and then back to the West Coast for three at Angel Stadium.
"I think everything is, you know, going on the right track," Donaldson said. "We definitely have some areas of improvement, but every team does. Offensively, I think there have been a lot of guys just really starting to come out of their shell a little bit that are going to continue to produce and put up some nice numbers."
On this episode, Donaldson talks about such topics as the A's progress, the evolution of his mullet, whether diving over a tarp or hitting a walk-off homer means more, what the shaving-cream pie tasted like last week after beating Joe Nathan and the Tigers, trends around the game and a "Fan or Fraud" segment in which he has to guess whether fans on the street will get Melanie Iglasias' questions right.
Who knows, maybe you will see Donaldson on Instagram soon. Down in the basement, he asked show host Fat Joe: "What's Instagram?" Fat Joe told him: "People can see you are working, you can post a picture from the game, you control the content." He told Fat Joe his Twitter handle, "BringerOfRain20," which is up to nearly 40,000 followers and should grow exponentially if this voting continues.
In addition to Donaldson, segments on this 10th episode of "Off the Bat" include Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins hanging out with DJ/producer Markus Schulz before a recent Schulz performance (can Rollins DJ?) and Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton taking Iglesias for a ride in his Maserati.
Previous episodes of "Off the Bat" have featured David Ortiz -- executive producer of the season-long series -- as well as in-studio guests Robinson Cano, Bryce Harper, Adam Jones, CC Sabathia, David Price, Chris Archer, Eric Young Jr., Dee Gordon, Pedro Alvarez and the Cardinals' pitching staff of Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. Reporter Jane Lee contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.