Cort MacDonald is the everyday high schooler. You can often find him either strumming his guitar, playing poker, and socializing with his friends around school or in his spare time. He’s a fun-loving kid just looking to make a few more memories with his classmates and teammates before he heads off to school for his freshman year of college. He’s a multi-sport athlete who loves competing for the sake of competition, playing for the love of the game, as many other high schoolers do.
Pantego AD and head football coach Jeff Kemp vouches for Cort’s competitive nature, something he sees regularly from his star football player.
“He loves to compete,” Kemp said. “He got to experience all five sports, and the competition that went into each one of them.”
But Cort MacDonald is also a young man who marches to the beat of his own drum. In an era where many high schoolers are told that they are only supposed to specialize in one or two sports at most, he chooses to specialize in not just one or two sports, but five. He competes in baseball, football, basketball, track and golf.
After each season, most high schoolers rest or relax. But that’s not Cort’s way. When one sport winds down, he’s already practicing and preparing for the next one. Honing his craft, and continuing to push for excellence.
“From his freshman year until now, he’s played five sports a year,” says Billie Hicks, head baseball coach at Pantego Christian Academy. “He’s the kid during basketball season, after practice he’s in the cages hitting to make sure he’s ready for baseball season. During football season, after practice he’s in the gym shooting jump shots, free throws and getting his legs underneath him to get ready for basketball. He’s just the type of kid that any coach would like to have.”
It’s this relentless work ethic, and desire to be the absolute best at what he does, that sets this “normal” Texas kid apart from the rest. This persistence has enabled him to not only play five sports and earn top grades, but he also has the highest batting average in Pantego baseball history, and has been named All-State in football basketball, baseball and track. And beginning this fall, he’ll be a scholarship athlete at Stanford University!
But Cort’s success wasn’t handed to him, and he wasn’t born with all the skills and talent he now has. The foundation for the success he has achieved thus far was laid down very early in his life, something he credits to support from his family, starting with his dad.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a bat in my hand or a basketball in my hands. He wanted me to play baseball since I was a kid, but he gave me the choice to grow up and choose what I’ve wanted to play. He’s just so supportive of me.”
Cort’s older brother has also played a big role in shaping his choice to pursue excellence on the baseball diamond and in the classroom. Caden was also a standout when he played at Pantego, being named an All-State baseball player three times, an academic All-State selection in 2018-2019, and drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, he’s currently a pitcher for the Princeton University baseball team. Cort looks set to follow in his older brother’s footsteps as he gets set to play for Stanford.
In addition to the support from his family, and the great example set by his older brother, the game of baseball itself has also been instrumental in developing Cort’s work ethic, and fostering the steely determination he now has. Playing on the diamond has taught him how to push through adversity, and stay persistent in the pursuit of success.
“I’ve grown to appreciate how hard mentally baseball is,” Cort said. “Baseball is a sport of failure. I appreciate it, but I’ve also grown up. It’s what I’ve been around. It’s what made me choose the sport.”
But an early push toward baseball, and first-rate work ethic isn’t all that Cort brings to the table. Pantego boys track coach Dawson Cannefax noticed something was different and unique about him when he first coached MacDonald.
“To me it was both his intellectual and sport IQ,” Cannefax said. “He’s a smart, sharp kid. You don’t accidentally stumble your way into Stanford University. I’ve had him in the classroom. Academically he’s a great critical thinker. When he wrote essays, he was very deep and analytical. He gets the nuance of whatever sport he’s in. When you have conversations with him, it’s almost like having a conversation with a coach. He was just able to pick my brain and help me to think about how we can be successful individually, and as a team.”
In addition to being extremely intelligent, Cort also strives to lead by example, in and out of athletics. He stresses how important it is to be consistent in both words and actions.
“People aren’t always going to follow your actions, but they’re going to listen to what you say, and keep their eye on you,” MacDonald says. “When you have the name that I have, and you show everything on the diamond with your style of play, people really watch you and think about how you lead.”
But above all, Cort remains focused on fulfilling the plan that God has set before him, which is bigger than the sport of baseball.
Off the baseball diamond and away from his busy schedule, he still finds time to enjoy helping and spending time with others. Many young kids are in the Junior Panther Program at Pantego, a youth mentorship program, and Cort MacDonald regularly volunteers his time there. Pantego basketball coach Jae Avery is very pleased with his 1,000-point athlete and leader on the court, but sees an even bigger impact from him off the hardwood.
“The time and the moments he spends with those kids, he really enjoys it. If we have a big brother program, Cort’s going to be there,” Avery says. “He’s going to throw the football around during football season, he’ll shoot shots with little kids and spend time with them.”
Avery says that athletes who are in Cort’s position rarely have time for others outside of sports. But Cort makes an exception for the Junior Panther Program.
“That’s one characteristic that you don’t see from a kid at that age who’s doing all these things, and still maintaining a 4.0 GPA,” Avery says. When we have moments like this where he can give back to the younger kids, that’s one thing that makes him stand out as a young man. He will never be bigger than himself.”
Cort MacDonald may one day be a Major League Baseball superstar. But the trappings of fame and fortune aren’t what’s most important to him. What is important to this young man may surprise you.
“As long as I continue to enjoy the game like I am right now, my goal is just to be content with what I’m doing in life, giving back and helping others,” MacDonald says. “Knowing that this is what God has planned for me, and to be happy while I’m playing baseball, and enjoying the life I’ve been given. I’m very blessed to grow up with the relationships I’ve had with my parents and the opportunities that I’ve had. As long as I can continue to be happy with where I am in life, the money doesn’t matter, and what I’m doing really doesn’t matter as long as I’m happy and I’m fulfilling God’s wishes for me.”
Cort MacDonald is proof that anyone can achieve their dreams if they have goals, the desire and work ethic to reach them, and the faith in God to trust that everything will work out!