A week before his induction into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, Adam Dunn was hanging out on a beach with his family — he has four kids aged between 11 and 5 months — and not thinking about his speech.
“I’ll probably just try to wing it like I do everything else,” Dunn joked in a conference call with Cincinnati media.
If winging it was Dunn’s strategy throughout his eight seasons with the Reds, it was a solid one. He hit 270 of his 462 career home runs between his rookie year in 2001 and Aug. 11, 2008, when the Reds traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Micah Owings, Wilkin Castillo and Dallas Buck.
» LOOKING BACK: Dunn retires from baseball
Dunn’s career spanned two stadiums and crossed paths with a number of Reds greats. When he debuted on July 20, 2001, he joined Ken Griffey Jr., Sean Casey, Aaron Boone and others in the lineup. When Joey Votto debuted in September 2007, Dunn was in the lineup. The following August, in Dunn’s last game with the Reds, he batted fifth, right behind Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips and one spot ahead of Edwin Encarnacion.
Of all the big moments Dunn had during those seasons, he values the friends he made most of all.
“I was a kid,” he said. “I grew up in Cincinnati essentially. The relationships that I made will be life-long. They lasted a lot longer than the baseball did. That’s something that people can’t take away.”
As for the move from Cinergy Field to Great American Ball Park in 2003, Dunn said it was a vast improvement in all areas — from the parking situation to the clubhouse to the field itself.
“It was obviously a great hitters park,” he said. “You’re moving from Motel Six to the Ritz Carlton. It was awesome. It’s a beautiful park. They did a great job designing that ballpark. It’s still one of my favorites. I love it.”
Dunn has not been back to the stadium since his career ended. He’ll be honored before a 7:10 p.m. Saturday game against the Pittsburgh Pirates along with two other inductees: pitcher Fred Norman and manager Dave Bristol.
Dunn joins the Reds Hall of Fame four years after his last game. In 2014, he played for the Chicago White Sox and Oakland A’s. His last game was his first playoff game — a wild-card game against the Kansas City Royals — but he didn’t see any action.
» PHOTOS: Dunn through the years
A career .237 hitter, Dunn ranks third in baseball history in strikeouts (2,379) behind Reggie Jackson (2,597) and Jim Thome (2,548). He’s tied with Jose Canseco for 37th in baseball history in home runs. He was one of the most consistent home run hitters in the game throughout his career, hitting exactly 40 homers four seasons in a row (2005-08).
Dunn was 18 when the Reds drafted him in the second round in 1998, 20 when he played for the Dayton Dragons in 2000 and 21 when he reached the big leagues. He’s now 38 and living in Houston, keeping busy by raising a family and always looking for “Adam time,” which he said is hard to find these days.
When Dunn was asked if he considered his career a success, he took a long pause.
“That’s a tough question,” Dunn said. “Yes and no. Obviously, the ultimate goal was never accomplished, and that was winning a World Series. That would have definitely put icing on the cake and solidified my career at least. To not accomplish that, I don’t want to call it a disappointment, but it’s definitely something I would have really enjoyed to look on my mantel and see one of those big, old rings. Now I’ve just got to look at the Astro replica one.”
Dunn’s kids have grown to love the Astros, who won the World Series last season and rank among baseball’s best teams again in 2018. His sons are the reason he’s watching baseball more than ever these days. He marvels at how good young players are and says “it’s a different kind of game.”
As for the Reds, he follows them in part because he played with Votto, who he remembers as a “talented guy” and a “different bird.”
“He’s cut from a different cloth than I am,” Dunn said. “More refined, I would say. I don’t think anyone could have predicted anybody being as good as he is. He’s obviously one of the best players in the game. As much credit as he gets, I still don’t think he gets enough credit.”
The same could be said about Dunn, who never played for a winning team in Cincinnati but entertained fans with mammoth home runs and a big personality, both of which will be celebrated this weekend.
“In my opinion, obviously, the Reds Hall of Fame is second to only one, and that would be Cooperstown,” Dunn said. “Some of the greatest players to not only play for the Reds but to ever play the game have been inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. I can’t put into words how big of an honor that is.”