On your Marc 7/31: Well Dunn

I ‘m not sure if the Dayton Dragons will ever begin a Hall of Fame, but if they do, Adam Dunn certainly has to be in it. In fact, he should be inducted in the first class, paired with Austin Kearns. This came to mind recently, when Dunn was enshrined in the Cincinnati Reds Hall […]

A local Hall of Fame contender

By Marc Katz

I’m not sure if the Dayton Dragons will ever begin a Hall of Fame, but if they do, Adam Dunn certainly has to be in it.

In fact, he should be inducted in the first class, paired with Austin Kearns.

This came to mind recently, when Dunn was enshrined in the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame for his eight seasons of work there.

In the low minor leagues, nobody’s going to play eight seasons in one place. One or two is the usual maximum at one site, because that’s the way the minors work.

And Dunn shouldn’t be a Dayton Hall of Famer because of what he did in Cincinnati. Only his numbers in Dayton should count, and he piled up some numbers.

Hard to believe he was only 20 when he played for the Dragons. He and Kearns were the big names, and while Kearns had the bigger numbers (.306-.281 in batting average, 27-16 in homers and 104-79 in RBIs), scouts rightly acknowledged each would make the major leagues. The only argument was over which one would be the most successful.

Because of injuries, it turned out to be Dunn, who overcame an injury himself while with the Dragons.

Dunn broke his right thumb and took seven stitches over his right eye in a collision with third baseman Kevin Baderdeen over a pop fly on June 6, 2000. Baderdeen, broke his jaw and right hand on the play.

When you think about it, Dunn could have had several accidents like this, the way he played in the outfield.

But picking off fly balls and picking up grounders is not why the Reds drafted him in the second round in 1998, just behind first-rounder Kearns.

He hit home runs.

He also played football, good enough to sign as a 6-foot-6, 235-pound (he steadily added more weight) quarterback at Texas.

That was also 1998, and Dunn negotiated a short rookie baseball season to attend fall practice at Texas.

This is where baseball and football differ. In baseball, Dunn and Kearns – and many others—were going to make the majors and not get in each other’s way.

In football, Major Applewhite was blocking Dunn’s projection as the starting quarterback, and Chris Simms was being recruited in 1999.

Dunn was going to have to sit, move positions or choose baseball only.

He told Dayton Daily News columnist Gary Nuhn it was not such a tough choice.

“Giving up baseball would be like giving up eating,” he said.

To me, he said, “There’s no timetable in baseball. Whenever we get there, we get there. In football, it’s totally different. In football, you’ve got five years (of eligibility in college). To me, it wasn’t worth sitting on the bench for four years and playing my fifth year.”

A right-hander who batted left, Dunn hit long, high balls down the right field line. Later in Cincinnati, he was said to have reached the Ohio River. In Dayton, he confounded traffic on First Street.

His friendly and carefree attitude made him a mark for fans demanding more intensity, but he always said the right thing.

It did not take Dunn long to make the majors. He zoomed from Class AA to AAA Louisville in 2001 and was on the brink of making the Reds when I visited one day in Louisville.

That day he clubbed a long home run. In the same game, he flubbed an outfield grounder that went through his legs, allowing the winning run to score.

After the game, he told me the fans would remember the flub. I told him they’d remember the homer.

“Everybody in Louisville is going to know I messed up and caused us to lose the game,” Dunn said. “It’s all about winning. If I had hit that homer in the bottom of the ninth and won the game, it would have been different.”

He worked at times on his outfield play, never quite grasping it all.

“I’ve gotten 100 times better (in the outfield) than last year,” he said. “I’ve still got a long way to go. I’m just realizing how important it is. I figured if you could hit, it was enough. I’m realizing you need it all.”

The year before, when he made the Dragons, he said, “The only thing I know is that right now a lot of things in my game are terrible. I’m young and I’ve got a lot to learn.”

What did he learn? Enough to hit 462 homers, 35th all-time. Enough to walk 1,317 times, 40th all-time. Not enough to avoid striking out 2,379 times, 3rd all-time.

He’s in the Reds’ Hall of Fame. His .237 lifetime batting average will probably keep him out of Cooperstown.

But if the Dragons begin a Hall of Fame, here’s my vote: Adam Dunn.

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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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