CHICAGO -- The White Sox Minor League minicamp began this week at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., with Jasmine Dunston in place as the organization’s new director of Minor League operations.
Dunston’s journey to the White Sox began via an offseason phone conversation with executive vice president Ken Williams after the team received permission from the Reds to talk with their player development specialist. It concluded in that weeklong window with assistant general manager for player development Chris Getz offering the job to Dunston.
That sort of offer would figure to bring about great excitement, but excitement was only part of the equation for the accomplished 31-year-old.
“I wasn’t too high or too low. I was shocked: from the shock of interviewing that week and how fast it went with everyone,” Dunston said recently. “I was so nervous, but I was just mustering up the confidence and said, ‘Let’s get it done, Jasmine.’ I didn’t even go in thinking I was going to get it.
“When they came back to me and they offered me the position, I told Getzy to give me a day or two to think about it. I thought about it, I prayed about it. I talked to my parents about it. I talked to my family about it. I even talked to [Reds vice president for player development] Shawn Pender about it, and then I made my decision to accept.”
If Dunston’s name sounds familiar, especially in Chicago baseball circles, it’s because her father, Shawon, was a staple at shortstop for the Cubs from 1985-95 and for part of 1997. The top pick overall in the 1982 Draft, selected four spots above Dwight Gooden, Shawon Dunston hit 107 of his 150 career home runs with the Cubs while bringing a monstrously strong arm every day to his middle infield work.
This story, however, is about the younger Dunston, a softball player during her undergraduate days at Tennessee State University who earned a master’s degree in sports administration from Valparaiso and a law degree from John F. Kennedy University College of Law. Her first conversation with Williams focused, in part, on “diversity, inclusion, from the African American standpoint, a woman’s standpoint. Trying to get more diverse in the game,” according to Dunston.
Williams also talked to Dunston about Grace Guerrero Zwit and all she had done and her myriad responsibilities with the White Sox during her 40 years in the organization. Dunston has taken over the role entrusted to Zwit since 2000.
Zwit was hired by Roland Hemond and Dave Dombrowski in September 1982 as an assistant in the player development/scouting departments. She was named assistant director of scouting/Minor League administration under Williams and Duane Shaffer in 1997 and director of Minor League operations in 2000. Zwit was promoted to senior director of Minor League operations in 2008, working for owner Jerry Reinsdorf during that entire tenure.
Although Zwit is moving into retirement, she remains a consultant with the White Sox and has helped Dunston with her transition.
“She’s going to be fine. She’s a bright girl,” Zwit said of Dunston. “She grew up in the game. She’s learning the true guts of the game, the Minor Leagues. Not everyone knows, and so she’s learning those pieces now. It’s a lot of work ... and you have to be organized and [pay] attention to detail, no question. Otherwise, you can be overwhelmed. She’s going to be great.”
Dunston began her new job on Nov. 24.
“I went to Chicago in December, so I spent a whole week with her,” Dunston said. “And we speak every day, whether it’s phone, email, FaceTime or Zoom. I’m heavily connected with her. She’s great.”
Dunston is presently familiarizing herself with the job, as full Minor League Spring Training begins in a little over one week. She also doesn’t take lightly the honor of being one of the diverse women’s voices in the game, as well as in the player development space and front office.
“I’m honored and very humbled with that,” Dunston said. “It’s nice to see there are so many women today getting opportunities to flourish within their organization and starting to hear their name. Starting to get recognition about their skills and what they can bring to the table and what they are doing.
“Women are setting themselves up to be successful. A lot of us do play softball growing up, and we want to kind of keep that love for the game throughout our career somehow. Maybe back in the day, women didn’t know how to do that, but now we are starting to see the tides turn and trying to see how we can make this game a part of our livelihood as well. It’s great.
“I encourage all women, if they do love baseball and love the game, to figure out what they want to do and find their place in the space, as well.”