The inaugural version of the Dayton Dragons in the year 2000 included two immediate fan favorites, left fielder Adam Dunn
and right fielder Austin Kearns. Both were blue chip prospects in the Reds organization, and both went on to long careers in the major leagues.
Dunn was drafted in the second round by the Reds in 1998 as a two-sport star. His first two seasons in the Reds organization, he played baseball in the summer and then left his team late in the season for the University of Texas, where he had been recruited to play quarterback. Unexpected circumstances led to a position change and a new direction for Adam Dunn.
Expecting to be the Longhorns quarterback of the future, Dunn watched University of Tennessee star quarterback recruit Chris Simms change his college choice to the University of Texas, prompting Longhorns coach Mack Brown to ask Dunn to move to the tight end position. Dunn then decided to commit to baseball full-time, and his football playing days were over.
Marc Katz, who covered the Dragons from 2000-'09 for the Dayton Daily News, questions whether Dunn would have left football if he had not been asked to change positions.
"He was the nicest guy, really friendly," says Katz. "In my conversations with him, he was still feeling like a football player. If he could have continued to play quarterback, I don't think he would have given up football."
Dunn was the Dragons left fielder in 2000 and spent the entire year with the team, minus an 18-day stretch in June when he suffered a hand injury after colliding in a game with Dragons third baseman Kevin Baderdeen, who came away from the incident with a broken jaw. Dunn started off great for the Dragons that year and when the team played its first home game at Fifth Third Field on April 27 after 16 games on the road to start the year, Dunn was batting .340. He finished the year at .281 with 16 home runs and 79 runs batted in. He also set a club record that still stands after 13 seasons with 100 walks in a season. His best day with the Dragons came August 8th at South Bend when he hit a home run and drove in seven runs. The seven RBI in one game is still tied for the club record with three other players, Joey Votto, Juan Francisco, and David Vidal.
Dunn started the next season in Double-A and by July 20, 2001, he was in the Major Leagues with the Reds, less than 11 months after his last game in Dayton. Ironically, the starting pitcher for the Reds the day Dunn made his debut was his former teammate from the previous season with the Dragons, Jose Acevedo. Dunn played left field and batted sixth that day, getting one hit and drawing an intentional walk against a Florida Marlins team managed by former Reds great Tony Perez.
Dunn finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting that season, batting .262 with 19 home runs in less than half a season of game action. The next year, he became the first former Dragons to play in the Major League All-Star Game, and in 2004, he started an incredible stretch of five straight years with at least 40 home runs.
As the 2008 season moved along, Dunn was at a crossroads in his career with the Reds. Eligible for free agency after the season, he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Micah Owings and two minor leaguers. In eight years with the Reds, Dunn hit 270 home runs.
Dunn spent two years with the Washington Nationals and then signed with the Chicago White Sox in 2011, a season when everything went wrong for Dunn. He batted just .159 and his home run total dropped to 11. But Dunn bounced back with a bang in 2012 and made his second all-star game appearance, belting 41 home runs to rank among the league's top five.
Adam Dunn has now spent 12 years in the big leagues and slammed more than 400 home runs. His career home run total now ranks 49th in baseball history, just behind former Dodgers Hall-of-Famer Duke Snider. He was the third Dayton Dragons player to reach the majors. Next up: Austin Kearns.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.