3/25/2013 8:30 P.M. ET
Dunstons Sr., Jr. enjoy Cactus League reunion
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
MESA, Ariz. -- It was Family Day for the Dunstons at HoHoKam Stadium on Monday.
Shawon Dunston Sr., an instructor on the Giants staff, was sitting with the San Francisco coaches. His son, Shawon Jr., an 11th-round pick by the Cubs, who were his dad's first pro team, was inserted into the game as a defensive sub in the sixth inning. Mom and one of Shawon Sr.'s daughters -- and Shawon Jr.'s sister -- were in the stands taking photos.
"It was probably one of the best experiences playing baseball besides playing in [a All-American game] three summers ago," Shawon Jr. said. "Playing a big league game in front of my dad, on the other side coaching, my mom and my sister out there, it was pretty fun and pretty surreal.
"The first inning I got out there playing a big league Spring Training game, I've dreamed of this as a little kid, trying to be in the big leagues, and got a taste of it today and hopefully I'm here pretty soon."
It wasn't Dunston's first Cactus League game with the Cubs. He was a reserve Saturday and inserted as a pinch-runner, scoring the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch in the eighth.
But on Monday, it was different because his dad was there, and because he got a chance to hit.
The Dunstons posed briefly for photos before the game and then exchanged lineup cards.
"That was pretty nice," Shawon Jr. said. "Dale [Sveum, Cubs manager] and [bench coach Jamie] Quirk said, 'Hey, you're going to meet your dad out there with the scorecards at the beginning of the game' and that's what happened."
Dunston took over in center field in the sixth and led off the Cubs' seventh for his first at-bat. Dunston swung and missed the first pitch from the Giants' George Kontos, then flied out to center on the second. Dad was watching it all from his front-row seat.
Shawon Sr., who turned 50 on March 21, played at HoHoKam. He was the Cubs' first-round pick in 1982 and played for the Cubs from 1985-95. Shawon Jr. played last season in the Rookie-level Arizona League and also at Class A Boise, batting a combined .257. He knows all about his dad's playing days, including the "Shawon-O-Meter." Maybe they'll get one for Shawon Jr.?
"I hear that a lot," he said.
With one out in the Cubs ninth, Dunston faced Giants closer Sergio Romo and fell behind 0-2. He saw eight pitches, and the count was full when he slapped a single through the hole at shortstop. Did Dad give him a scouting report?
"I knew what [Romo] had because I'm a big Giants fan," Dunston said. "I'm not going to sit here and be secretive about it. I'm from the Bay Area and watch them all the time, and I know the whole team. It was pretty nice facing him."
Nice to get a hit?
"That was nice, too," he said.
The Giants won, 9-3, over the Cubs, but that didn't spoil the day. After the game, father and son hugged and posed for photos. San Francisco reporters tracked down Shawon Sr., who had already boarded the bus. He got off briefly.
"I'm very proud," Dad said. "I'm proud."
Then, obviously emotional, he ran back to the bus.
Shawon Jr., 20, has been listening to his father's advice from Day One and said that since he turned 12, his dad has been saying the same thing over and over. But the message has changed since he signed a pro contract.
"Now, he says, 'You're playing with men and it's not a little boys' game,' or 'You're playing for something now,'" Shawon Jr. said.
He had committed to Vanderbilt and was eager to go to college.
"To be honest, when I got drafted by the Cubs, I told my parents I was going to school," Dunston said. "Me and my agent talked about it, and I said, 'I want to go to school.' He said, 'Wait.'"
He attended summer school at Vanderbilt, but the Cubs offered a $1.275 million signing bonus.
"I said, 'All right, let's go,'" Dunston said about pro baseball. "School's not going anywhere. Like my parents said, 'If you want to start something and live the dream and play in the big leagues, you got a pretty good amount to do it, go ahead and do it.' I'm not worried about if I make it, it's when I'm going to make it."
He's got an idea in his head as to when he wants to make it to the big leagues for more than just a brief appearance in a Cactus League game.
"I have a timeline but I'm not going to throw it out there right now," Dunston said. "I'm just going to play hard, play my game, get my mental game better, physically get stronger. Hopefully I'm here pretty soon to help the team out and get to the playoffs."
That would make Dad proud.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. Chris Haft contributed to this story. Muskat writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.