Before start of spring, Dunn trains with the troops
Lefty reliever participates in various drills and takes time to meet soldiers
MIAMI -- Marlins reliever Mike Dunn is getting a head start on the discipline and dedication it takes to endure the daily grind of Spring Training.
This week, Dunn is taking part in Fox Sports' salute to the military. The initiative is bringing Spring Training to the troops at Fort Bragg U.S. Army post in North Carolina.
The past few mornings, Dunn has been up at 5:30 a.m. ET to run a mile in step with the rest of his group. The lefty has trained, dined and interacted with the soldiers.
From a baseball perspective, Dunn has taken part in clinics and meet-and-greet sessions, sharing his experiences of playing the national pastime.
"It's been awesome," Dunn said in a phone interview. "Every moment of it has been unique by itself. To sit down with some of these soldiers and catch their stories, to get to know them a little bit, it's been amazing."
The Marlins' primary left-handed reliever, Dunn is expected to take on a big role with the organization once Spring Training gets underway on Feb. 16 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.
The 28-year-old had been doing his regular offseason throwing at his home in Las Vegas.
On Feb. 1, with his family, Dunn traveled to Jupiter to handle his Spring Training accommodations. Before heading to Fort Bragg, he threw a bullpen session at Roger Dean Stadium.
Dunn arrived at Fort Bragg on Tuesday, where he hooked up with several current and former players, coaches and managers. Also participating are Chris Archer (Rays), Gabe Kapler (former player and current FOX Sports TV analyst), Royce Clayton (former player), Chris Hammond (former player) and Bob Brenly (D-backs announcer and former manager).
Dunn takes pride in reaching out to those in uniform. He showed that in 2013 with his involvement in the "Little Warrior Project," which brought children from military families to Marlins Park each Monday. The children and their families had field access, where they met with Dunn and watched batting practice
"I spent time with soldiers, their families, the wounded warriors," Dunn said. "So my perspective changed every time I met those guys."
For Dunn, spending the week at Fort Bragg was another way to give back to those who serve the country.
"When you talk to the troops, they talk from the heart," Dunn said. "They truly believe in what they're doing. It's amazing to see the dedication they have, and they are doing it all for us, the average person."
On the military post, Dunn took part in physical training. He's fired various weapons and survived a controlled 34-foot tower jump.
One drill was medical simulation training. It's designed to condition medics to go into the field and rescue the wounded. Dunn was handed a weapon that looked like a machine gun, but it actually fired paintballs. So he basically enjoyed playing an army version of paintball.
"It was a lot of fun," Dunn said.
The whole experience has shown Dunn how much attention the troops pay to precision and detail.
"When you're running a mile, you're not just running," Dunn said. "Your feet have to be in step, like you're marching in the same sequence as everybody else. The discipline that they have, it's truly amazing."
As an organization, the Marlins have actively supported the troops. Team representatives just returned from an overseas visit to military bases, which included a stop in Kuwait.
Dunn had interest in attending, but the visit was pushed from early January to Jan. 27-Feb. 3. Because it was so close to the start of Spring Training, no players on the roster attended. But in years past, Marlins players did make the trips.
Dunn was hoping to take part in the 2011 trek to Japan, Guam and Hawaii. But those plans were cancelled after he learned his wife was pregnant.
At Fort Bragg, Dunn is getting the full experience, complete with a history lesson.
After leaving North Carolina, Dunn will return to South Florida in preparation for the Marlins' Spring Training. He will carry with him more reminders that others are devoting their lives to serving their country.
"Their desire and their dedication, you can see it," Dunn said. "You can hear it in their voices, how much they care about what they're doing. It's just amazing, their attention to detail on everything."