Dunlap Battles Pitchers, His Own Perfectionism

Cory Dunlap is a hitter with the pure lefthanded swing that led the California Junior College Conference, got him drafted in the third round in 2004 and saw him deliver a .351 average in his rookie season. And yet, "If I go 0-for-10, I start to press, you know". For Cory is his own worst critic.

No need to have a coach or manager who puts pressure on him; he does all that himself. So, this just concluded season that saw him hit .291 for Vero Beach might bring smiles to some players but for him, it's "I should have hit better."

You see, he's something of a perfectionist at the plate, the kind of person who tries to get the most out of every at-bat. This was a season of ups and downs for him. He started slowly, then just as he was getting with it, had to overcome personal tragedy when his brother died. To his credit, he battled through his grief to get that batting mark into more than respectable country even if it wasn't what he feels capable of.

"It hit me hard when my brother died," he allows. "I just had to go on. That's what he wanted me to do. It's my profession and I have to continue."

Dunlap goes up there with the mind set of, "I'm looking for my pitch. Whether it's a ball or a strike, if it's not in my hitting zone, I won't go for it. Not until there are two strikes will I swing at something outside that zone." This selectivity has paid off in that aforesaid juco batting crown with a .500 average and a .583 on-base percentage. He certainly didn't falter in the Pioneer League, leading the league in on-base percentage (.492) and walks (68). So, if his stats this year, which were quite good actually, aren't what he feels capable of, you can understand him.

Then, there's the weight business. He had ballooned to 285 in college then dieted and exercised so strenuously that he shed 80 pounds. He's since gone back up to 245 and admits, "I'll always have to do the extra conditioning. That's the price I pay." It isn't the total poundage that he's trying to conquer but rather to convert the body fat to muscle so he can become stronger.

It's figured that would bring a surge to his extra base totals. He managed only seven home runs this season for Vero Beach and he well knows that as a first baseman he's expected to ultimately deliver more. His fielding is another area that he knows needs refining.

He's shown that he can recognize what needs to be done and will do it. At 21 he's just arriving at the stage where it should start to come together for him. So, he goes to the plate determined to hit to all fields and rid his mind of those negative notions that insist on creeping in.

He's built a solid foundation. Now the bricks of becoming a bigtime hitter need to be put into place. In the meantime, "I played a full year without getting hurt and I learned a lot. It's coming. I have to believe that."