Getting it Dunn: Baseball family's latest star becomes a hit with Oregon State
CORVALLIS - From walk-on to Pac-10 player of the week?
It's a leap that's not often made in college baseball, but Ryan Dunn isn't strutting over his time in the spotlight.
'It's a pretty nice honor,' Oregon State's junior shortstop says, 'but the wins feel a lot better, to be honest.'
Dunn's reference is to OSU's three-game sweep of Arizona State, a national power that gets swept about as often as Halley's Comet is visible on earth. The last time an 0-for-3 happened to the Sun Devils was 1999, when Dunn was a 9-year-old playing Little League in Yorba Linda, Calif.
The 5-10, 175-pound Dunn went 6 for 14 with three doubles, a home run and six RBIs in the ASU series to earn his conference acclaim. He is hitting .292 in his first season after redshirting last year, his first at OSU, for academic purposes.
Dunn came to Corvallis as a semi-package deal with catcher Parker Berberet, a former high school teammate whom he has known since those Little League days.
'We played against each other when we were 10,' Dunn says, 'and then joined up on all-star teams and played travel ball until we were 18.'
The coach for some of those teams was Jim Dunn, Ryan's father. And therein lies the ties that brought Ryan to Oregon State.
Jim Dunn is the son of longtime former Portland State coach Jack Dunn. Jim and his brothers, Jeff and John, all played for their father at Wilson High and PSU. Jim was a middle infielder who played on the U.S. national collegiate all-star team that toured Japan in 1979 and played professionally up to the Double-A level.
Casey played at the University of Portland when Jim was at Portland State. The teams squared off for the 1979 NorPac League championship. The Pilots won, but Jim earned his adversary's respect.
'He was a real good second baseman, but he was a pitcher, too, who gave you everything you could imagine on the mound,' Casey recalls. 'He was filthy.'
When Casey talked to Jim Dunn about Berberet during the recruiting process, he discussed Jim's son, too. After Ryan Dunn spent two years at Orange Coast Junior College, Casey invited him to try the OSU program.
Dunn and Berberet had been in Omaha for travel ball tournaments during the 2006 and '07 College World Series. They bought tickets and watched the Beavers win back-to-back national titles.
'I just liked the way they played,' Dunn says. 'I enjoyed their style of small ball and their execution. It was right up my alley.'
Dunn didn't have a scholarship, but he felt he'd get a fair chance to play at OSU.
'They told me I'd get a shot, but I knew I had to take care of business,' he says. 'It's just baseball. I figured I'd control what I could control, and if they liked it, they liked it.'
The redshirt year 'was painful to go through,' he said, 'but it makes this year all that much sweeter.'
Dunn was ticketed to pitch this season - he worked 3 1/3 innings in four games early in the year - but his help in the infield was needed.
'It's kind of new, but I'm enjoying every minute of it,' he says. 'I prefer to play a position than pitch. It's more action every day. But really, I just want to win.'
Casey likes that about Dunn. He also likes the player's knack for timely hitting. What the coach wants to see now is more consistency on the defensive end. Dunn has made eight errors, some of them on routine plays.
'Coach Casey is right, absolutely,' Dunn says. 'I'm struggling with the glove a little, but I just have to stick to the basics and get it done.'
Proudly watching from the stands at most games is grandfather Jack, suddenly one of the biggest OSU fans in the state after coaching against the Beavers for so many years.
'I get more nervous than when I was coaching,' Jack says with a laugh. 'It's been fun watching Ryan. He was very skilled when he was young, but he was so small, he would lose out to guys who were physically stronger but not as skilled. It's just been the last couple of years he has started to catch up. He's been late maturing, very much like his dad.'
Casey says he's glad to have a Dunn on his side for a change.
'He has to get a little more consistently defensively,' Casey says. 'If he does that, he can play shortstop every day.
'I'm happy for him. He's a great kid with real good baseball instincts.'
Dunn wants to be part of an OSU team like the one he watched in 2006 and '07.
'Omaha is at the end of the tunnel,' he says, 'but we have to worry about this weekend (at Stanford) first.'