VERO BEACH, Fla. — A little bit of brotherly love and some good, old-fashioned sibling rivalry is enough to keep driving Christian Dunn.
The 18-year-old Dunn is one of nearly 50 high school student-athletes to play for the two Breakthrough Series teams in the pair of WWBA tournaments that began play Thursday.
Both clubs — Dunn’s group and the younger squad — will work out at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex (JRTC) this week in preparation for the games in Palm Beach County.
A class of 2022 standout from Olive Branch, Miss., Dunn said he came by his position behind the plate with the help of family, learning from his older brother Cordell, 22, who is a catching prospect in the Tigers’ farm system.
“He led me in that direction [to catch] a little bit, yeah,” said the younger Dunn before his Thursday game in the WWBA World Championships held behind Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Fla.
“I was just like, ‘You know what, let me try it,’ and I ended up falling in love with it. He said that there was always plenty of catching gear around the house.
The senior at Collierville High School said he will follow in the footsteps of Cordell — who is in Lakeland, Fla., rehabbing from Tommy John surgery — and attend Grayson College in Denison, Texas, after graduating.
“The only thing I’m trying to do is be better than him,” Dunn said, smiling at the reference to the brotherly competition. “Just hitting, fielding, whatever.”
While his hometown of Olive Branch — less than 45 minutes southeast of Memphis — is known for football and sending players to the NFL, Dunn only plays on the diamond. He does however relate his role behind the dish to that of a gridiron player.
“I like being the wall, the foundation of the team,” he said. He said, “I can see the entire field. I know who is where and what’s happening.” I’m the quarterback out there.”
Playing on the MLB Breakthrough Series 2022 Jupiter squad coached by Jerry Manuel, Dunn and his teammates claimed a 3-2 walkoff win in their opener against the Slammers Baseball 2022 club from Englewood, Colo.
Fellow catcher Brendan Stinson had a different route than Dunn to finding himself with the gear on and putting down fingers for his pitcher.
Playing in the WWBA Freshmen National Championship in West Palm Beach, Fla., the class of 2025 backstop put the gear on at a very early age — sent behind the plate by a former coach because Stinson was the only one who could consistently catch the ball.
Three years later, however, the Chicago native said he has grown to love the position and the leadership role that accompanies it.
“It started for me in [eight-under] or [nine-under],” said Stinson, who is about to turn 15 and is a fan of Kansas City’s Salvador Perez and the White Sox Yasmani Grandal. “A coach said to me that I should catch the ball because I was good at it. Since then I have kept at it.
“I really started liking it when I was 11, and started putting the work in. It’s something I enjoy. I like playing defense most because when I’m catching and calling signs, I’m controlling the whole game.”
Stinson and his White Sox ACE teammates back home received enormous news this year: They were invited to play at the Field of Dreams in Dubuque County, Iowa, in the week leading up to the Aug. 12 contest between the Yankees and their hometown White Sox.
“We were really excited to be chosen,” Stinson said at the JRTC Thursday morning before heading to West Palm Beach. “We also got to see the Yankees and Sox. It was incredible when we arrived. It was a great environment. We got to go to the big field and watch the big guys play.”
But the fun didn’t stop there for Stinson, who played with ACE on the Field of Dreams Movie Site field beside the two-story white farmhouse — not the field constructed 500 feet into the cornfield for the big league game.
“I hit a grand slam on a 2-2 pitch into left field,” the right-handed-hitting Stinson said. It was a wonderful moment. It was a middle in fastball at my belt. Maybe a little higher, it was a line drive. With two strikes, I was just trying to drive in some runs, and I barreled it.”
Catching instructor Bobby Ramos worked with Stinson last month and likes what he sees from the young South Sider.
“He did a real good job defensively,” said Ramos, who played in the Majors for six years with the Expos and Yankees. He’s a smart, skilled kid who calls a good game. And he sticks to the plan. He also shows good signs with his bat. He’s got some pop.”
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