Dunn making an Oscars detour
White Sox slugger had a small role in nominated film 'Dallas Buyers Club'
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Do you have any bartending experience?
Funny you should ask.
"More than most," Adam Dunn replied.
And that brief exchange led the White Sox designated hitter to the big screen with a cameo in "Dallas Buyers Club."
OK, Dunn hasn't actually worked as a bartender, but he's familiar with the profession. In the end, it makes a good story.
Actually, Dunn's involvement with the movie goes way beyond that, and it is the real reason he'll be flying to Los Angeles on Sunday to attend the 86th Annual Academy Awards.
Dunn was urged to go by White Sox manager Robin Ventura. After all, how often does something like this happen to a kid from Porter, Texas?
"Dallas Buyers Club," a dark, mesmerizing 1980s tale based on the life of an emaciated AIDS patient, Ron Woodruff, is up for six Oscars, including best picture and best lead actor (Matthew McConaughey).
Don't look for Dunn on stage accepting an Oscar if the movie wins.
"No," he said, "that was Robin's idea. That's not happening."
How about an after-party?
"Only two or three," Dunn said, smiling.
Dunn laughs at the whole thing and smiles as he recounts how all of this happened. He's a Texas boy with a Texas story.
In 2004, when Dunn bought a ranch near Buffalo, Texas, a mutual friend told him to look up a guy named Joe Newcomb, who'd also bought land there.
"His ranch happened to be about two miles away," Dunn said. "So I went over there and met him. That's what neighbors do, right? I introduced myself, and he told me he lived in The Woodlands [a Houston suburb]. I said, `That's where I'm moving.' Turns out, we're basically neighbor-neighbor."
From there, a friendship developed and then a business partnership. Newcomb is involved in a host of businesses under the umbrella of Truth Entertainment. A couple of years ago, Newcomb approached Dunn about a movie script.
"Joe asked me if I knew Matthew [McConaughey]," Dunn said. "I wouldn't say we're best friends, but I do know him. He said, 'There's a script it looks like we can get and jump right into.'
"Joe is actually from Memphis, but he claims to be a Texas guy. He said, 'We're both Texas guys, and so is Matthew.' Next thing I knew, here we are."
Dunn's involvement was to trust Newcomb and to write a check.
"We do a lot of things together," Dunn said. "He's one of the smartest business people I've ever been around in my life. He's not a guy who is going to continuously dump stuff on you. And he doesn't need my money. But I'd give him a blank check. This one was already teed up."
Dunn's role in the movie came when he and Newcomb visited the set in New Orleans as filming was wrapping up. Newcomb urged the writers to find something for Dunn, who resisted a couple of speaking roles for one that got him into the movie and offered plenty of insight into how pictures are made.
"One scene was 29 takes, the other probably 20," Dunn said. "They'd say, 'That's perfect. Looked great. Now do it again.' I never realized everything that goes into that. Every second, piece by piece, camera angle, getting yelled at by this director for no reason -- it was strange to be part of."
How did Dunn feel seeing himself in the movie?
"It was perfect," he said. "If you blink, you miss it."
McConaughey lost 47 pounds for the role and looks hauntingly gaunt and frail.
"He just became the character," Dunn said. "It was just weird. It tells you what AIDS does to you. It was a lot easier watching the movie with people around. What's cool is having seen how it was done and then to see the finished product. It was a really good experience."
This is a good time to be Adam Dunn. At 34, he's beginning his 14th big league season with 440 career home runs and a place on a team that has been retooled by general manager Rick Hahn with youth and speed.
The White Sox have the American League's best pitcher in left-hander Chris Sale and new faces dotted around the lineup at first base (Jose Abreu), center field (Adam Eaton) and third base (Matt Davidson).
In addition, they'll have a full season of 22-year-old right fielder Avisail Garcia, who was acquired from the Tigers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season in a three-team deal that sent White Sox veteran Jake Peavy to the Red Sox.
If a bunch of talented, energetic kids doesn't get you excited about Spring Training, nothing will.
"I'm very excited," Dunn said. "There are a lot of young guys, but some guys with big league experience, guys with talent. It's not like it's a bunch of guys up from Double-A, [where] you don't know what to expect. I've got high expectations for these guys. There are only a couple of them I really don't know."
Dunn is coming off a 34-home run, 76-walk, 189-strikeout season. He had a .762 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 2013, and it was the ninth time in 13 seasons he hit at least 30 homers.
Dunn has had a fascinating career, sitting fourth on the all-time strikeout list (2,220) and 39th in home runs. His career .861 OPS has him tied for 131st -- higher than that of Wade Boggs, George Brett, Carlos Beltran and Shin-Soo Choo, to name four prominent players.
To Dunn, statistics are just rows of type.
"You know, if you don't make the playoffs, it feels the same regardless of your personal numbers," he said. "There's disappointment."
And there's spring optimism because of Hahn's work and all the new faces. Dunn was reluctant to take a day off for the Oscars, but Ventura convinced him that he'd regret it if he didn't go.
"I didn't want to do anything to mess up getting ready for the season," Dunn said. "That's what's important."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.