Adam Dunn's Jiu-Jitsu training
No one has ever accused Adam Dunn of being Willie Mays with his glove, but the Nats' slugger has repeatedly said how much he enjoys playing defense. And with first base his anointed position heading into 2010, a few Nats fans had their interest piqued when Manager Jim Riggleman said Dunn was learning jiu-jitsu this offseason to help improve his agility in the field.
"Adam can play good defense at first base," Riggleman told MASN on Dec. 19, when breaking the jiu-jitsu news. "Dunn is the least of our concerns."
Well, Dunn was in town last week for the Nats winter caravan, offering me my first opportunity to ask him about the Brazilian martial art and how it would help his job performance at first base this spring.
"It'll help me whoop somebody's ass," Dunn noted.
(Before I explain, let me note that Dec. 19 was also the date of the last Washington Snowvechkin. That means every time this city is under snowy siege, Nats fans are treated to Dunn jiu-jitsu news. I'd just as soon forsake the Dunn martial arts updates in exchange for not having to watch 17 Max and Ruby episodes from a snowbound house once a month, but I guess that's not up to me.)
Anyhow, the Dunn jiu-jitsu tale is possibly overblown, inasmuch as he's studied the sport off and on since he was 14, at the prompting of a childhood friend. He tapered off over the last four years, but got back into it this winter since his longtime gym is now more convenient to his offseason home. And what, exactly, does he do at his offseason training sessions?
"We roll around and learn stuff," Dunn explained. "It's all on-the-ground stuff, it's all positioning. It's more of an endurance thing. It's a workout, bro, it's hard. That's kind of why I do it."
He said the flexibility offered by the sport could theoretically help him at first, but that's not his primary motivation. But he said he was surprised how much he enjoyed playing first base, with the ability to chat an added benefit. For example?
"Depends who it is," he said. "I've got my buddies, and we've got a lot of things to talk about. Other people, I have no idea what to talk about. For instance, say Brian McCann was over there, I would probably make some sort of fat joke, something like that. I would talk to David Wright about how he can't hit homers any more. It depends."
Dunn reiterated his desire to spend his entire career in the National League, saying he's fine with designated hitting during interleague play but he never wants to do it full time.
"I won't," he said. "No chance. It's pinch hitting four times. Pinch hitting's hard. I can't imagine being a DH."
And he also reiterated his desire to sign an extension with the Nats, despite the team's poor showing during his first year in D.C.
"Everything's looking up," he said. "They're doing everything they can. Before where I was, I didn't feel like they did everything they could to get better every year. Just one offseason on this team, they've done a lot of things to straighten out a lot of our problems....It wasn't that we kept running out bad players. If guys weren't getting the job done, whooo, they were out of here. They're trying to get all the right pieces."
As for the jiu-jitsu thing, Dunn was an all-around athlete in high school--he played baseball, basketball, football, threw the shotput and ran sprints--but his school never offered wrestling, so that wasn't an option.
(Incidentally, Nyjer Morgan--who calls Dunn "Freddie Physical" and was extremely pleased to learn of the jiu-jitsu thing--also never got into traditional combat sports, although he said his hockey training was combat enough.
"Hell yeah," he said, when I asked if he ever fought. "Had to. Whenever I get on those skates, I turned into about 6-6. Trust me.")
Dunn loves MMA--"people just see all the blood and that's what they think, but it's so tactical," he said--and he enjoys the jiu-jitsu sessions, which could happen anywhere from one time to four times a week during the offseason. But he said he has no desire to get into a ring himself, finding first base a superior destination.
"I don't like getting hit in the face," he noted. "I don't care how big you are, you get hit in the face, it hurts."
(Thanks to Cheryl Nichols of Nats News Network for the beard photo; Dunn said he grows one every offseason.)
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