Shawon Dunston Jr. is a name that Cubs fans are growing to know. A 19-year-old outfielder, now a member of the short-season Boise Hawks squad, Dunston is a rising star in the Cubs farm system.
Dunston Jr. has drawn admiration for his hustle and heart, just as his father instilled in him.
"You have to play hard every day, bring it everyday, because there's someone else working hard, too," Dunston Jr. said. "If you want to do this for a living, you have to play 100 percent or don't play at all."
As a child, Dunston Jr. watched his father play with the same demeanor during his 18-year major-league career. Shawon Jr. hopes to have the same success his father had, but is looking to form his own path.
"I just play my game, be my own person and show what I can do," said Dunston Jr.
An 11th-round selection in the 2011 MLB Draft, Dunston Jr. spent months deciding whether he would join the Cubs organization or play collegiately with Vanderbilt. In August, he signed with the Cubs and began his professional career.
Dunston Jr. has been embraced by the fans, the same way as his father was. Of course, Shawon Jr. once sat in the Wrigley Field grandstands to watch his father play, so he understands the fanbase's passion.
"It doesn't matter if you're in first place or last place, they'll still sell out games," said Dunston Jr. "Cubs fans are very loyal to the team and the city of Chicago."
Following the conclusion of spring training, Dunston Jr. stayed in Mesa with the Cubs' extended camp. During that time period, he learned and developed as a player and a person.
"I learned about how to play every day, how to play daily, coming to the ballpark and do the same thing over and over," he said. "There are days that you don't want to do anything but you've got to grind through it; it's a long season. I learned a lot about myself.
Dunston Jr. is set to join the Boise Hawks, making his professional baseball debut on Friday.
The Hawks' roster is highlighted by pitchers Willengton Cruz, Bryce Shafer and James Pugliese, plus shortstop Marco Hernandez and first baseman Rock Shoulders. Dunston Jr. is optimistic that team will be successful.
"We should be pretty darn good, I think," he said. "It's a long season, we only have three or four days off. You have to grind, through. Things we learned in the spring, take it to the season where it really counts and we'll be alright."
Dunston Jr. has a timetable in mind as to how his professional career should progress, though is keeping that to himself. For now, the young outfielder is focused on working hard toward that goal, one step at a time.
"I'm focused on short-season and I'll go year by year from there," he said. "I'm focused on now, not the big leagues. I know in my head where I want to be, but right now, I want to focus on a very good first year of pro ball, starting with my debut on Friday."