Undaunted Dorn finds way to Majors with D-backs
Outfielder/first baseman began his Minor League career in 2006
PHOENIX -- The long road for Danny Dorn from the First-Year Player Draft to the Major Leagues certainly wasn't paved with gold, but it wasn't as long as it has been for others.
It took 10 years and 939 Minor League games before Dorn was called up by the D-backs for the first time on Tuesday. He pinch-hit during the seventh inning against Rangers reliever Keone Kela and walked in his first big league at-bat.
Dorn is still looking for his first Major League hit after striking out on Friday as a pinch-hitter, during the D-backs' 4-1 loss to the Pirates at Chase Field. He's now 0-for-2 in three plate appearances, but he remains undaunted. The experience has been a long time coming, and the week has been a blast..
"I think he's having fun," Arizona manager Chip Hale said. "He's been working hard trying to get ready for his at-bats. He's had a couple of at-bats --- a walk, a flyout -- he's had good swings in both at-bats. I think he wants to get that first hit. It's important to him. It's important to us. So I think when he gets that, you'll see him have a little more fun."
Even without the hit, Dorn still feels like he's floating on clouds. The years he's invested have all been worth it.
"I can call myself a Major Leaguer," Dorn said on Friday. "It's been great. I just feel blessed and thankful for the opportunity."
Dorn was playing at Triple-A Reno when manager Phil Nevin called him to the ballpark on Monday for what he thought was early batting practice. Instead, it was that long-awaited pass to the Majors.
An outfielder and first baseman, Dorn's journey began in 2006 and had taken him through seven Minor League cities and two countries for three organizations -- the Reds, Tigers and D-backs -- awaiting those words. From somebody, anybody.
Dorn's wife, Brittany, immediately jumped on a plane from their home in Louisville, Ky., to cheer him on. They were married in 2012 when he played part of that season in his third tour for the Triple-A team there, and she absolutely knew what she was getting into.
"She's been great through it all," Dorn said. "It was great for her, to be able to call her and tell her I was going to the big leagues. I know she wanted it just as much as I do."
There are others whose trials and tribulations were even worse. John Lindsey, another first baseman, played 16 years and 1,571 games in the Minors before he was called up by the Dodgers when rosters expanded in September 2010. He played in his first Major League game on Sept. 8 of that season. Lindsey was 33 at the time. Dorn is only 30.
Asked if he had ever heard of Lindsey, Dorn began to laugh.
"I played with him, actually, old Johnny," Dorn said.
But for Lindsey, Dorn met him on the way back down. Lindsey's big league career lasted all of 11 games and 13 plate appearances that September. He hit a single and was hit by a pitch.
Dorn left Louisville during the 2012 season and finished at Triple-A Toledo. And that's where he played with Lindsey for parts of that and the following season.
"It was in Triple-A for the Tigers," Dorn recalled. "We talked a little bit. He had been around a lot and was a hard worker and a good teammate and everything. Fun to be around."
Any advice from one long-term Minor Leaguer to another?
"Not too much," Dorn said. "We're all trying to do the same thing. You bust your butt and hopefully you'll get an opportunity."
There's no telling what will happen with Dorn. The D-backs certainly are in a rebuilding phase and are open to anyone who seizes an opportunity. Dorn was called up from Reno on Tuesday when rookie Jake Lamb injured his left foot and was placed on the disabled list. The left-handed-hitting Dorn was batting .474 (18-for-38) with two homers, four doubles, eight RBIs and seven runs scored for Reno.
Yasmany Tomas is getting a shot at third base, but if the at-bats aren't there, he could go back to the Minors when Lamb is healthy. So could Dorn.
"At that point, whether it's in 10 days or 15 days from now, we'll have to make that decision and see where the team is at," Hale said. "We'll see where our weaknesses are. We may have to keep him as a left-handed hitter off the bench or we may have to send him back."
Dorn grew up in what is known as the Inland Empire, about 90 miles east of the Los Angeles area. He played his college ball at Cal State Fullerton and was a sophomore outfielder on the team that won the 2004 College World Series. The Rays drafted Dorn in the 23rd round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, but he opted to remain in school for his senior year.
"I enjoyed being in college and working hard from an education standpoint," Dorn said. "I would like to finish that, too."
Dorn said he's a few credits shy of a business management degree and has every intention of finishing.
"It would be nice to get that out of the way, absolutely," he said. "I know how important a college degree is. Everyone in my family has graduated from college, so I guess I've been dragging my feet."
Dorn has had good reason. The Reds picked him in the 32nd round of the 2006 Draft, and since then, he has been chasing the dream. Dorn knows that he is fortunate. There have been no serious injuries or family calamities to derail him, and he has had nothing except incredible support. The long road built on Dorn's tenacity has now led to here.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is an admirer. After all, he worked with Lindsey in Class A ball when Hurdle was the Rockies' Minor League hitting coordinator.
"It's one of the stories you hope everybody tells somewhere," Hurdle said. "Perseverance, resiliency, the guy obviously has passion for what he does. It's not about the money. It's about him following a dream and pulling it off. It's a great thing. If I see him out there, I'm going to tell him how happy I am for him."