Dunlap Looks Like Tony Gwynn, Hits Like Him, Too

<b>VERO BEACH, Florida</b>-- When Cory Dunlap hit over .300 in a demanding league in 2003 only to be passed over in the June draft, he had only to glance downward to know the reason why. His weight had burgeoned to 285, his waistline looked like Refrigerator Perry's. So, did he call Kirstie Alley for Jenny Craig's number? No, he called Willie McGee.

Willie, who retired in 2000, didn't play 18 seasons in the big leagues without knowing something about staying in trim. He knew Cory and agreed to help him in his plight. "We worked out every day-lifting and running. I watched what I ate, of course."

The pounds melted away, 80 of them in fact, until Cory was down to 205. At that point, he might have considered joining Jared to do a Subway commercial. Instead, he felt it had been a bit too much for he was weak. So, back came some pounds but carefully until he was up to 235.

At the start of Contra Costa Junior College's 2004 season, Cory's name was off most club's draft board. He changed that with a torrid spring in which he hit .523 to lead the California junior college circuit. Now, the scouts were hovering, among those the Dodgers' Mark Sheehy. When draft day 2004 arrived, L.A. had heard that the Oakland A's were ready to pounce on Dunlap so they moved first, taking him in the third round.

That was still before most of the followers of such activities had heard of Cory. But they soon learned he was for real when he reported to Ogden and then proceeded to rip the Pioneer League apart with a .351 average.

"I've always been able to hit," Cory admits. "It's something I work at a lot, though," he adds.

Among the eye-catching statistics of that impressive pro beginning is the fact that he walked 68 times while only striking out 40. Still, he says his approach is not particularly that of a patient hitter. "A first-pitch fast ball is the best pitch to hit there is," he maintains. "I always go up looking for that. But I'm not afraid to hit with two strikes, either."

His approach is the classic 'hit the ball where it's pitched.' However, among his 87 hits were only seven home runs and he knows well that power is expected to be a big part of the production of a first baseman, the position he plays in the field. Thus, "Now I'm concentrating on hitting the bottom half of the ball to get more lift."

Defensively he rates as adequate and, not surprisingly, he's no threat on the bases. No, it's that bat that will carry him along and this year he hopes that's to start the season in Vero Beach. "But if I end up in Columbus, I won't be angry. I just try to control what I can."

That would be by continuing his formidable offense- and watching his weight which is currently at that 235 mark. I won't kid you. He has the girth of Tony Gwynn at about age 36. But he has a smooth, classic swing.