The outfielder's first game day with New York was Friday, two days after the Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox. A 25th man in New York, as he was in Boston, McDonald did not have to leave town to join his new club, which is in Boston for a four-game series against the Sox.
McDonald did, however, have to shave the dreads, per Yankees team policy and a nudge from captain Derek Jeter.
"That was the first thing I asked: I talked to the hitting coach, asking him, 'Do I have to cut my hair?'" McDonald said in the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway, a short walk from his old office. "[Kevin Long] was like, 'Nah.' But I still had some reservations. I came in here today early. A couple of guys came in and said, 'You'd better cut that before the players get here.'"
"So I sent a picture to Jeter and asked him, 'Yea or nay?' He told me, 'Cut it off; it's a new beginning.' So in honor of The Boss and The Captain ... I want to be a part of the team, so I cut it off."
McDonald, 33, spent the last three seasons with the Red Sox and was designated for assignment because of their outfield logjam. The Yankees acquired him hoping the right-handed batter's ability to hit lefties can help them off the bench, but there is no guarantee of how long the Yankees will keep him. McDonald is a lifetime .248 hitter and has hit at a .277 clip against southpaws.
"We can move some people around," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the addition. "It gives us a few more options on who we DH sometimes, especially in a weekend like this."
McDonald was not in the starting lineup on Friday, but with left-handers scheduled to start each of the next three games for Boston -- including both games of Saturday's day-night doubleheader -- chances are quite good that his first at-bats in a Yankees uniform will come against the team that let him go.
"Every time I think about it, I'm like, 'Is this really happening?'" McDonald said. "You get an opportunity to play against the team that released you, No. 1, but then right away, and at Fenway. This is the funniest part about it: the fans think I chose to go play for the Yankees. That's the perception. It's tough leaving over there. There are a lot of great people and a lot of relationships. It hurts."
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are trying to ensure that McDonald can't pass on any trade secrets to the Yanks. They've already changed their signs.
"Darnell was one of the guys that knew the signs when he was here, so we're going to change them," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "As soon as you get a guy from another team, you usually try to, I say, shake them down. About a day later, they forget everything because they're learning new stuff. As soon as you get them, if you say, 'What do they do in this situation?' you might get some good information. Darnell is a student. He's not like a guy who just sits at the end of the bench and swings the bat. He cares about the game."
McDonald said it was "just out of the blue" when the Sox designated him for assignment on June 30 and that it was difficult waiting to see what would happen. The bright side was getting to spend time with his family, although not everyone has fully accepted the move just yet.
"My daughter is mad still," McDonald said. "I told her we might be able to get hooked up with the YES Network. When I told her, she asked me if I could leave her here [in Boston]."