Freeport’s Justin Dunn always dreamed of standing on the Citi Field mound with dozens of family members and friends in the stands, and that vision became reality Monday night.
Dunn, a former Mets first-round draft pick, was wearing a different uniform from the one he imagined, though. Instead, it was a Reds No. 38, and some of the best friends Dunn grew up with in the Mets organization — Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil — were staring back at him with a bat in their hands.
On top of all that, Dunn was making his first start since a shoulder injury put him on the injured list in June 2021 with the Mariners, who traded him to Reds on March 14.
It was a lot to absorb for one night, but the overriding emotion for Dunn was just how thankful he was to be there in the Mets’ 5-1 win over the Reds.
“I honestly think the velo was a little more down because I forced myself to step back, especially the Alonso at-bats,” Dunn said. “We’ve been talking trash for weeks — honestly for years, since we faced each other in spring training. So I kind of forced myself to back off a little bit to try and command the baseball a little bit better. But yeah, it was a whirlwind. I’m glad to get it over with and now I can take it all in.”
Dunn, who estimated having 60 friends and family there, allowed five hits and three runs in 4 2⁄3 innings. He hit Brandon Nimmo with his fourth pitch and allowed a homer by Starling Marte. The only other damage was Daniel Vogelbach’s RBI single in the third.
The key stat for him? Holding Alonso hitless (0-for-3, one strikeout). “The first thing we talked about today was if I hit him, he was going to charge me, give me a bear hug, pick me up and run with me to first base,” Dunn said, smiling. “After every at-bat I told him, 0-for-2, 0-for-3. Unfortunately, McNeil got a hit off me tonight and I’ll never hear the end of that one.”
The Mets traded Dunn, Jarred Kelenic and three other players to the Mariners in the 2018 deal that brought Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano to Flushing. That changed the course of his career, but some of the details of his arrival to Citi Field played out like the dream, starting with his trip from Triple-A Louisville on Sunday.
“It was pretty ironic, because the way I called my mom and told her I got called up to pitch here on Monday was exactly how I saw it when I was playing for the Mets,” Dunn said. “To be able to get off at JFK and have them pick me up at the airport, go home and have a nice home-cooked meal, it was a pretty special moment. To look up and have them there, and to see them all out on the field was pretty awesome.”
Jake in demand on SNY
Jacob deGrom’s return to the Citi Field mound on Sunday against Atlanta got a lot of eyes. SNY announced that it was its second-most-viewed game in its history with 555,000 total viewers tuned in. The only SNY telecast that more people tuned into was their game against the Marlins on Sept. 28, 2008, when the Mets were eliminated from playoff contention in the final game played at Shea Stadium (806,047 viewers).
The network also said the series with Atlanta was its most watched, with an average of 462,000 viewers tuning in.
The Mets on Wednesday will host Women’s Day at Citi Field in honor of Women’s Equality Day. Those attending can come early to watch and listen to a live panel that will include women executives from the Mets’ front office. Queens native Olivia Pichardo, a pitcher on the 2022 women’s national baseball team, will throw the ceremonial first pitch. There will be a tribute video for former Mets executive Shannon Forde, a trailblazer for women working in baseball who died in 2016.