Willingham, Affeldt named Clemente nominees

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Willingham, Affeldt named Clemente nominees

Sept. 13, 2011

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CSNBayArea.com staff

Outfielder Josh Willingham was announced as the A's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, while relief pitcherJeremy Affeldt is the Giants' representative, both Bay Area baseball teams announced Tuesday.

According to the A's media release, "The Roberto Clemente Award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and positive contribution to their team. The award is named after the 12-time All-Star and Hall of Famer, Roberto Clemente, who was killed on New Years Eve 1972 while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. This award helps perpetuate Clementes memory and character by recognizing current-day players who truly understand the value of helping others."

Willingham raised more than 100,000 after tornadoes ripped through northern Alabama, where Willingham and his family live.

Affeldt has his own foundation, the Jeremy Affeldt Foundation, and also is involved with Not For SaleFree 2 Play, the Jefferson Awards Students In Action Program, and the Larkin Street Youth Services organization.

Fans can vote for the national winner from Sept. 14 through Oct. 9 at www.chevybaseball.comclemente. The fan vote will be included among the selection panel votes.

Evans: Cain's strong final spring start 'does give him an edge' over Blach

Evans: Cain's strong final spring start 'does give him an edge' over Blach

Matt Cain entered spring training competing with Ty Blach for the fifth starter spot.

On Thursday morning, Giants GM Bobby Evans provided an update on the position battle.

"Blach put up a good spring for himself, and it does make the decision harder," Evans said on KNBR 680. "We'll process it today with the coaching staff and Boch and I, and we'll make a final call."

Back in early February, Evans said: "“In a perfect world, Matt Cain would be Matt Cain and he would take that spot."

Over seven games (six starts) this spring, Cain went 0-1 with a 7.82 ERA.

[PAVLOVIC: Cain makes case for Giants' rotation spot in final Cactus League start]

Blach went 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA over seven appearances (two starts).

Cain is making nearly $21 million this season in what is the final guaranteed year of the 6-year, $127.5 million deal he signed in April 2012.

"Again, with the track record that Matt Cain's had overall, it would seem easy," Evans said. "But yet, the last couple years have been so rough and we've had the injuries and the hard contact against him.

"But he did finish strong with the Cubbies (Cubs) and I think it does give him an edge as we close out this decision."

Down on the Farm: Dunston Jr. aims to go from bat boy to outfielder for Giants

Down on the Farm: Dunston Jr. aims to go from bat boy to outfielder for Giants

As the child of a famous athlete, it’s easier said than done to make a name for yourself. Owning the same exact name as that person — in this case Shawon Dunston, the No. 1 pick in the 1982 MLB Draft — the stakes are even higher. 

"When I was younger that definitely took a toll on me," Shawon Dunston Jr., 24, said in an exclusive phone interview with CSNBayArea.com. "If I went 4-for-4 people would say 'Well your dad played so you should go 4-for-4' and if I went 0-for-4 it would be like, 'Your dad played and you're not even good.'" 

Dunston Jr. paved his path on the diamond starring at Valley Christian High School in San Jose. The speedy outfielder originally committed to college baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt University, but the Chicago Cubs selected Dunston Jr. in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft — and he elected to go the pro route. A mere twenty-nine years earlier, the Cubs took the elder Dunston with the top pick in the '82 draft. 

Once Dunston Jr. reached pro ball, all the noise about his dad was put to rest. 

"I know how to tune that out. I love my dad. I look at my dad as dad first, not the ballplayer," said Dunston Jr. "Now I just worry about what I have to do. My dad did what he had to do and that's that." 

The senior Dunston knew it wouldn't be easy for his son. No matter what his son did on the field, people would talk but his message was simple — be yourself. 

"He said honestly you're in a lose-lose situation. If you do well they're going to say that you should just do well and if you don't do well they'll get too surprised," said Dunston Jr. "He just said honestly to do what you have to do, play hard, work hard, good things will happen and don't take the game for granted. Guys are gonna come after you because of who you are so just be ready for that and I've always put that in the back of my head."

In order for Dunston Jr. to continue to grow outside of the shadow of his famous father, it has become clear that his health is just as important as his stats. This was an early lesson after finding his way to the disabled list three times in the past two seasons. Ten games into the 2015 season, Dunston Jr. went down with a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two months. Then he suffered a strained hamstring just two games after his return.. He played only 24 games that year.

In 2016, his season came to a halt on July 14 in West Virginia due to a freak accident. Going for a ball in center field, he tore multiple ligaments in his ankle. The injury ended his season and required six months of rehab. 

"Mentally it was draining, but injuries are a part of the game and you have to deal with it. I mean you can't cry about it. It is what it is and now I'm just glad I'm fully back 100-percent healthy and I'm trying to stay that way,"

The season-ending ankle injury was especially frustrating as it came with a new franchise, the same one he grew up rooting for and ran around the field with his dad during the 2002 World Series. On June 8, 2016, the Cubs traded Dunston Jr. to the Giants after four-and-a-half years in Chicago's farm system. After hearing the news from his coaches in Lynchburg, Virginina, he called his parents — and the emotions set in. 

"At first I was kind of in shock a little bit, didn't know what to think or do," Dunston Jr. remembers. "It was weird because the Cubs were the only thing I knew growing up since I was 18 with the organization that drafted me. That's all I knew, that's all I'd been around.”

He went through about a two-week adjustment period with his new team, but then it was back to the game he has been around since Day 1.

"After that it was just baseball and I said I'm with a new team and it's a fresh start. It's still the same game. You're gonna hit the ball, throw, run. So after that I got my mind right and said let's get at it."

And get at it he did. In the 24 games he played with the Single-A Augusta GreenJackets, Dunston Jr. hit .284 with a .348 on-base percentage and .407 slugging percentage, increasing his numbers across the board. Some adjustments were made after learning from new coaches. But more than anything, the biggest change to his game was getting the consistent at-bats he needed -- until he went down. 

“The only thing that was frustrating was that I got hurt, because I think I was figuring things out little by little."

The first real Giants memories for Dunston Jr. came in 2001 when his father began his third stint in San Francisco to end his career.

“Memories, honestly, probably 2001, 2002 seeing Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, Rich Aurilia and J.T. Snow, all those guys,” said Dunston Jr. “I remember it like it was yesterday being in the dugout, being the bat boy, especially in the [2002] World Series. My dad's last year, seeing that team, those are probably the first memories of the Giants growing up in the Bay Area.” 

Any team that drafted Dunston Jr. would be making a dream come true and the Cubs made that happen in 2011. The fact he is a part of the Giants now though, is a reality he never believed possible. 

“Before the draft you just wanna be drafted by any team, but yeah, I always wanted to play for the Giants,” says Dunston Jr. “It's pretty surreal going through the minor leagues with the team that I grew up watching and I'm just waiting for my time to come in San Francisco. Until then, I'll continue to work hard in the minor leagues.” 

The younger Dunston has proven to be his own player on the field while moving away from the shadow of his father. Now, to go from bat boy to outfielder in San Francisco, Dunston Jr. hopes for health first over anything else to show off his skillset and climb the minor league ladder.