Oliver Dunn was the only player drafted out of the University of Utah in the MLB Draft. As a Derek Jeter fan growing up, Dunn discusses the help from Utah’s hitting coach and his approach at the plate.
Amanda: That first moment when you are drafted, what was that moment like for you? Who were you around?
Oliver: I was sitting next to my mom; my dad had to go to work and stuff. I was sitting there; I got a text from my agent to turn the sound on to the draft tracker and stuff. When my name popped up, it was surreal, mainly to be the Yankees of all teams. It was a remarkable moment.
A: And was there a specific, you’re originally from Utah, so is there a particular team that you grew up watching or a favorite player?
O: Yeah, I’ve never had a super favorite team. Watched a lot of the Yankees and a lot of other teams just because they’re usually the ones on the big stations, playing in the playoffs and stuff, but I’ve always been a huge Derek Jeter fan. I’ve had Derek Jeter posters on my wall since I was little, so I watched him a lot. A lot of different players. I like watching guys like (Jose) Altuve and other middle infielders that do it well.
A: And so right now middle infield is pretty, there’s a lot of stars playing shortstop and second base right now. Is there a specific player that you’re currently watching that you kind of look up looks up to?
O: I mean probably the one that I like to watch the most, just because we play super similar, I think is Scooter Gennett (Cincinnati Reds). We have similar body types and stuff. I mean it’s like you said, there are so many guys, but it’s, I mean there’s a bunch of guys on the Yankees, so many, so many good infielders now. It’s basically when you tune into a game; you’re watching someone that’s one of the best in the world. As much baseball as I can get. Whoever’s playing, they’re incredible.
A: In 2018, you played and started in all 55 games at second base. How did you prepare for that in the offseason?
O: It’s just making sure you are focused on your work every day. Having a plan when you walk in, to walk into your preparation every day, understanding what you want to get better at, improve that day. So it’s just focused work basically, and then when the game starts, it’s just loving playing the game.
A: How do you stay focus? Maybe there’s something that didn’t go your way during the game. How do you work on not letting that distract you from the rest of the game?
O: That’s a good question. I do a lot of work on the mental side of games, to learn how to controlling your grass and having focal points, routines and stuff that kind of help get you back to the middle, not too high, too low in those moments that happens every day. Having routines and a process that I’m comfortable and used to can help kind of center me.
A: During your time at the University of Utah, who was the most influential on your college career?
O: Coach (Jay) Brossman, the hitting coach. We’ve had a perfect relationship. Especially by the time I left. They were just; he was good with me we would toss ideas off each other until I felt about certain things and how he felt like I should do things certain ways and just being together to make me the best player that we could. He was awesome. He’s a great guy. I enjoyed that relationship a lot.
A: I could see from your batting average in 2018 you were batting .319 and you went up to .366, so what was something that he helped you within the offseason? Or what was a tip that he gave you to work on?
O: I think the biggest thing, more than anything physical changes was a lot approach-wise. So I had to be a better hitter, kind of work at-bats better. Things like more of just maturity wise as a hitter. And then there were few mechanical traces helped a bunch too.
A: And would you say that you were more patient at the plate after taking a different approach because you led your team in walks in 2018 as well?
O: I wouldn’t say more patient. It was I would say equally as patient. It was almost for me a little bit more aggressive to pitches I could hit just because sometimes I would get myself out of hitters counts by taking too many pitches. So it was a combination of that and just understanding which pitches I can do with what. I got better at hitting an inside fastball. It helped me in the early ABs where I would get those. That was one thing that helped the average for sure.
A: When you have that hitters count your either 2-0, 3-0, what are you thinking at that moment? Especially 3-0, are you thinking maybe I’ll swing away cause I know it’s going to be right down the middle. What do you think when you’re in the hitters count against you?
O: I try not to let that technically change what I’m thinking. You definitely kind of get into your zone of what you’re looking for. Just because you have the advantage, I’m not trying to do anything extra. I’m not swinging hard at this one. It’s just kind of refining of the approach, making sure you get a pitch in a smaller area than it would be in a 1-1 count. You’re looking for your whole chart. Other than that, still try to put the same spin on the ball.
A: What’s it like being the only player from Utah you being drafted?
O: I thought there were some other guys that I would’ve loved to get their chances. We had some outstanding players. There are some guys I really thought should’ve gotten the opportunity, and I believe still may down the road whether they go the independent route or not. It’s refreshing to be still able to be that guy from Utah down here. I mean, there’s not you know, here that very often, so it’s cool to have something unique that way. It’s awesome just because I loved my university and so anything I can do to kind of shine good light on that school, I’ll do it.