When he walked onto the field at All Pro Stadium in Avon, Ohio, for the Frontier League tryout and draft during the spring of 2010, Scott Dunn knew the odds of starting his professional baseball career were not good.
“There were 380 kids there, and I kept saying, ‘Wow! All these kids on the same field is mind-boggling.’ … But if my baseball career was going to end there, I was going to give it everything I had.”
Giving it his all enabled Dunn to beat the odds and get drafted by the Traverse City Beach Bums. Players selected at the league draft usually don’t even make the opening day roster, but Dunn beat the odds again and spent four seasons in northern Michigan, eventually becoming the Frontier League’s Pitcher of the Year this summer by posting a spectacular 15-1 record.
Next year, Dunn will be spending much of his summer closer to home. The Clinton native and South Side Beaver High School graduate was traded Tuesday by Traverse City to the Wild Things, a move that gives Washington an experienced veteran at the top of the rotation.
Dunn (5-11, 195) said he asked for a trade to Washington, in large part because his parents, Jack and Beth Dunn, can see him play without having to make an 8½-hour drive to a home game.
“I wanted to play closer to home,” Dunn said. “I don’t know how many more years I’ll be able to play, so I want my family to see me play more than one or two times a season.”
Dunn said he approached Traverse City vice president Jason Wuerfel and manager Greg Langbehn about his desire to play for Washington. The Wild Things agreed to send third baseman Jovan Rosa and a first-round draft pick to the Beach Bums in exchange for Dunn, a right-hander who has a 30-10 career record.
“I have a good relationship with Jason Wuerfel and Coach Langbehn. They are always trying to help. They respected what I wanted,” Dunn said.
Last year, Dunn became the first pitcher in league history to win his first 10 decisions. He finished sixth in ERA at 2.61. Dunn helped the Beach Bums to a second-place finish in the East Division, one game behind Lake Erie.
Perhaps Dunn’s most impressive statistic last season was, in his 20 starts, only one time did he leave a game with the Beach Bums losing.
Washington manager Bart Zeller, who has been collecting starting pitchers this offseason, is excited to have Dunn on the roster.
“I’m so excited to have him with us,” he said. “We can’t expect Scott to be 15-1 again. That was a career year. But if he can win 10 of 11 games, that’s better than anyone gave us last year.”
Zeller says Dunn brings instant credibility to the Wild Things’ pitching staff, which also has added left-hander Ryan Zamorsky from Evansville and right-hander Chris Phelan from Schaumburg during the offseason. Dunn, Zamorsky and Phelan each pitched in the Frontier League All-Star game last year at Consol Energy Park.
“I’m looking for Scott to bring leadership to our pitching staff,” Dunn said. “Everyone on that staff will know he was 15-1 last year, and they’ll know it wasn’t by luck. The guys with only half a year of pro experience are going to listen to everything he says.”
Dunn had a long road to professional baseball. He spent two years (2005 and ’06) at Marietta College, helping the Pioneers to an NCAA Division III national championship. He then joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard and worked on hydraulics on refueling planes.
Dunn, who says he “will have the baseball bug until the day I die,” wanted to get back to pitching and enrolled at Slippery Rock University, where he played the 2009 season.
The next year, he made it as a relief pitcher with Traverse City. He was converted to a starting pitcher late in 2011 and had his breakout season this year, when he was the startying pitcher for the East Division in the all-star game.
“The key last season was I stopped rushing things,” Dunn said. “I slowed the pace and learned how to relax on the mound.”
Dunn will join the Wild Things for spring training in May. Until then, he will spend his offseason working as a mechanic for Weavertown Environmental Group in Carnegie.
“I’ll fit right in with Washington,” Dunn said.