Everyone can use a little awe in their lives.
It was on a cold Sunday morning in the dead of winter, some 17 years ago when I first met Justin Dunn and his dad Ed.
They had traveled from Freeport to Matt Guiliano’s Indoor baseball facility to attend a workout I was holding for our newly formed travel baseball team.
I was looking for crazy parents who were willing to make a commitment to play a 100 game season.
The team was for 9 year olds.
I know, I know – that sounds insane.
Especially back then when “travel” baseball really didn’t exist the way it does today.
Anyone who knows me knows I can’t do things in moderation.
For a few years I had the pleasure of coaching Justin and traveling the east coast with 10 crazy baseball families including the Dunn family.
Baseball was our life and life was good.
It was one of the best times in my life.
I often long for those days today.
For a few seasons we played professional youth baseball.
It was a great time.
Last night, 17 years later, Justin Dunn, just 24 miles from where he grew up was the starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds vs. the New York Mets at Citifield.
I was in attendance.
And I was in awe.
“John, Justin is making his season debut tomorrow night at Citifield,” Ed said to me when he called me the other day.
A little context – originally the New York Mets drafted Justin in 2016 in the 1st round, 19th overall. It was then that I was sure that I was going to be able to see Justin pitch locally.
That hope would be delayed 4 years when the Mets traded Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic to the Seattle Mariners for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz.
Justin would spend 3 seasons in Seattle being part of the Mariners resurgence on the team that just missed making the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. The Mariners future looked bright.
Shortly thereafter, the Mariners traded him to the Cincinnati Reds.
After injuring his scapular, Justin rehabbed for nearly a year and wouldn’t you know it – his 2022 season debut was going be at Citifield.
Only a 4 year delay to see him pitch in an MLB game.
During our conversation the other day I asked Ed many questions – as I’m an avid baseball fan.
“What’s up with Jarred Kelenic?”
“What was it like to be in the same dugout as the great Ken Griffey Jr?”
“What are the majors really like?”
On and on and on – I just kept firing out questions one after another until I got to my final question.
I love greatness. I research it, analyze it – seek to understand it, so that is why on my final question I asked Ed,
“Ed, where is it that you think it happened for Justin – was it going to a High School Prep school, Boston College Playing in Cape Cod – where do you think Justin made his biggest gain?
He stunned me with his answer – “Showing up on that cold Sunday in the dead of winter as a skinny 9 year old.”
I immediately replied, “That’s a nice thing to say – but really, where do you think it was?”
“No really, If Justin didn’t show up that day we wouldn’t have never been introduced to that type of travel ball, that type of commitment – that type of insanity that is needed to make it. We probably would have played in our local Little League and been satisfied.”
In no way am I taking an ounce of credit for Justin making it to the majors – that was all his and his families hard work commitment and sacrifice.
But it was very rewarding to hear Ed then add,
“I would love for you to share this moment with my family – there will be 2 tickets waiting for you at will call.”
While speaking with Ed he mentioned that while playing in the minors for the Mets organization Justin and Pete Alonso became good friends on their mutual journeys to the majors.
Maybe that’s why I picked up on something that may have been easily overlooked – right before Pete Alonso stepped into the batters box last night to square off against his friend – there was a mutual tipping of their caps – Justin to Pete Alonso and Pete Alonso to Justin – as if to say – I’m glad you made it my friend.
To Justin, Ed, Donna and Ryan – I also tip my cap to you.
I’m glad you made it my friends.
I’m in awe.