The 20-year-old Veal went 8-5 with a 3.65 ERA for Pima this past season. He struck out 119 batters in 74 total innings. Veal was originally drafted out of Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Ariz., in 2003 by the White Sox in the 12th round, but opted for college at Arizona instead. He eventually left the Wildcats due to a lack of innings and an injury to his labrum.
"I needed to throw a lot more innings than Arizona was offering," Veal said. "If I didn't transfer, I couldn't get the innings I needed. They only wanted me to pitch in certain situational relief match-up's. The innings I would have gotten would have been only about 15 or 20, whereas I got almost 75 at Pima."
The Cubs hope to do a better job of persuading Veal to sign a professional contract than did the other Chicago team two years ago. However, Jim Hendry, John Stockstill and company face the same challenge as Sox General Manager Ken Williams did: the temptations of college ball.
If the Cubs are unable to sign Veal, the southpaw will join TCU of Conference USA.
"I signed a letter of intent with them last week, but I'd rather just go ahead and get my pro career started," Veal said. "The quicker you can get started, the quicker you can get to the big leagues."
As a sophomore with Pima, Veal and head coach Edgar Soto bonded for much of the season. Veal's mother passed away last December, and Soto took the youngster under his wing.
"I've been both of his parents recently," Soto said. "With all of the stuff he dealt with, plus the transfer and all, he's done an exceptional job. Donald is one of the most mature kids for his age. He transferred to us with a 3.0 GPA in Organic Chemistry I believe it was. He's really focused, knows what he wants to do, and has a plan to do it."
That focus, along with his determination and competitive nature, is one reason Veal was recently ranked as the 86th best player in the country by Baseball America. This past season, Veal was consistently in the mid-90's with his fastball, reaching 96 mph on occasion, Soto said.
"Mentally, he's a great competitor," said Soto. "He's got tremendous stuff. When you look at him, he's only 6'1" or 6'2", so he's not overly imposing or intimidating, but he's going to throw it as hard as anybody. He's a true four-pitch guy whose stuff is just explosive. He'll average 90 mph plus and that's tough for anybody to do. He's going to throw a good curveball in the mid-70's, a hard slider in the low-80's, and a good changeup. Those are four true pitches."
Already in his short career, Veal has drawn some lofty comparisons to such pitchers as Dontrelle Willis and former Oakland A and San Francisco Giant Vida Blue.
"When I was a young kid, I saw (Blue) pitch for the Giants," Soto said.
"That's somewhat of a vague memory, but he's the one Donald reminds me of. Others will say Willis, but Donald just doesn't have that huge of a leg-kick."
Nonetheless, being mentioned in the same breath as Willis is just fine with Donald Veal.
"To be compared to a big leaguer that dominating is a good thing," Veal said. "I just go out and try to pitch my game. Mechanically, we might have some things similar but I try not to think about it much."
Soto also praised Veal's aptitude for learning, saying it's one of his strongest assets.
"A lot of times, you teach something to somebody and unless you're hovering over them, they go back to their bad habits," Soto said. "But Donnie just hones them all. He's great at learning things and being able to continue them. Once you're able to show him something, you never have to worry about showing him again."
Away from the diamond, Veal has a genuine love for basketball and music. His favorite artist is rapper Ludacris, and he knows that if he signs with the Cubs, basketball will have to be put on hold for a while.
"Lofton was one of my favorites with the way he played," Veal said. "In football, Rice's work ethic and off-the-field character was just the best in any sport. I'm still a diehard Niners fan even though we've had some rough years."
Haven't we all.