Farmington native and Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Mike Dunn works out before Saturday’s Albuquerque Isotopes game, a 5-3 Isotopes loss at Isotopes Park. Dunn is with the Isotopes on a rehab assignment. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
He lived in Las Vegas, Nev., about as long as he lived in the Land of Enchantment.
But there’s no mistake what the answer is when one asks Colorado Rockies pitcher Mike Dunn where he’s from.
“Farmington, New Mexico, born and raised,” Dunn said. “I tell people I live in Las Vegas, but I’m from New Mexico, no doubt.”
The 33-year-old former Piedra Vista High School star is in Albuquerque on a rehab assignment with the Isotopes, who lost 5-3 to the visiting Reno Aces on Saturday night in front of a fireworks night announced crowd of 9,649.
Dunn, who is on the Rockies’ 60-day disabled list while an injury to the AC joint in his left shoulder heals, did not appear in Saturday’s game. But the reliever did throw a scoreless seventh inning in Friday’s 2-1 Isotopes victory. He allowed one hit and threw 10 of 11 pitches for strikes in what was his first appearance in Isotopes Park.
While he played in plenty of state playoff games in 2001 and 2002, Dunn left Piedra Vista High as a 17-year-old after his junior season in 2002, a season before the renovated Isotopes Parks opened and became a regular home of state playoff high school baseball games each spring.
“The last time I played here (in Albuquerque) would have been 2001, I think,” Dunn said. “Wow, making me feel old – 16, 17 years ago now.”
Dunn played his senior year of high school in Las Vegas, for added exposure, he said.
“I was told by some scouts I needed to get out and get seen and get to a bigger town,” Dunn said. “So I went to Vegas because my grandma was there and my mom was moving there. It’s not ideal to move your senior year.”
Dunn went on to play at College of Southern Nevada, where he was primarily an outfielder-first baseman. He was a 14th round draft pick of the Astros in 2003, then a 33rd round pick of the New York Yankees in 2004.
He’s played for the Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and Colorado, where he is in the midst of a three-year, $19 million contract through the 2019 season.
Though he pitched in high school and in winter leagues, he only pitched three innings in college and wasn’t converted to pitcher at the professional level until May 2006, he said. He made his major league debut with the Yankees on Sept. 4, 2009.
In the time since, he’s appeared in 527 big-league games, all as a reliever. He has a career 3.87 ERA and is expected back with the Rockies soon.
But he credits plenty of the success in his career to his time growing up on the baseball fields in Farmington, both playing for Piedra Vista and for summer-league teams where his Farmington Virus team played in the hometown Connie Mack World Series in 2002.
And he certainly hasn’t lost the rivalry juices that were flowing in his youth.
“The best memories were every year going against Farmington High,” said Dunn. “They were our rivals. And every year, it transitioned into summer league ball, as well. Farmington High always had their summer league team. PV, we weren’t necessarily on the same summer teams, but it was always against Farmington High. Growing up, it was the Farmington High Sky Sox (in summer league) and we were the Farmington Virus, the (summer league) team I was on. That never goes away.”
And neither does Dunn. He’s still a regular back in the Four Corners area, frequently visiting his dad, who lives in Bloomfield.
“I’m there at least two times an offseason,” Dunn said. “I still do a lot of hunting up there with my dad – elk and deer. And just go back and kind of bring my family to my dad and just hang out. We go down to Bowlero Lanes and to Cracker’s Sports Bar and watch football on Sundays. It’s nice to go back and see some familiar faces, some friends you haven’t seen in a long time.
“It’s always nice to go home.”
Box Score: Reno 5, Albuquerque 3
‘TOPES TODAY (for Sunday)
vs. Reno, 6:05 pm
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Promotion: Fan Appreciation/postgame fireworks
Probables: Isotope LHP Brett Oberholtzer (6-9, 5.78) vs. Aces RHP Jake Buchanan (10-8, 4.60)
Saturday: The host Isotopes and Reno were scheduled to play late.
Friday: Four Isotopes pitchers combined to shut down the visiting Reno Aces in a 2-1 win to open the final Isotopes home stand in 2018. Reno’s run was unearned in the third inning off starter David Holmberg (7-7), who allowed four hits and struck out four in six innings. Three ‘Topes relievers combined for three scoreless innings; Reno hitters were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.