MINNEAPOLIS — Dalton Dulin’s first day at the Perfect Game National Showcase didn’t start off as planned.
After travel complications, the middle infielder from Memphis University High didn’t even get into Minneapolis until 3 a.m. and had to be at the Metrodome at 9 a.m. for registration. He grounded out in a bang-bang play in his first at-bat, got thrown out trying to steal second as a pinch runner and just missed snagging a hard-hit ground ball up the middle later in the game.
So, after he juiced a triple to deep center field in his second at-bat, it was understandable that Dulin stood up, clapped his hands together and let out a little cheer. He only knows how to play the game at one speed: full tilt.
“My first at-bat, I had a good at-bat and I just battled through it,” Dulin said. “I came up with a full count and I hit a ground ball up the middle and unfortunately they got me out. The second at-bat, I knew the guy had some (velocity), so I was just trying to get the bat head out and run, because that’s what I like to do.”
And Dulin just kept running and making things happen, pulling off a straight steal of home on righthander Juan Carlos Santos from Arlington Country Day High in Jacksonville, Fla., who was pitching out of the windup.
“When I came up, there were no outs,” Dulin said. “So I was on third with no outs and they couldn’t get me in with a ground ball. The dude was being slow to home, so I figured if I just got out wide and had the chance. . . I just went. I was just trying to make things happen.”
Dulin said the last time he stole home was in a game in Cooperstown, N.Y., when he was 12 years old.
Dulin is a fundamentally-sound player. His compact line-drive swing and above-average speed stand out most. A natural lefthanded hitter, the Mississippi recruit has been switch-hitting for about two years. He has solid actions at shortstop, but profiles better defensively at second base.
While scouts won’t doubt his passion for the game or his exciting brand of play, some will question his size. Dulin is listed at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds.
“I’ve always had the motivation to play the game no matter what people say,” Dulin said. “You just have to make things happen and it doesn’t matter what people think of you.”
Dulin has grown up around the game. His father, Tim, was a fifth-round pick by the Orioles out of Memphis in 1985 and spent seven seasons in the minor leagues.
“My dad is honestly the best coach I’ve ever had,” Dulin said. “He’s taught me everything since I was a little kid. He hasn’t been my coach the whole time, he’s let me be on my own, but he’s always been around and nothing is more important to me than the things he teaches me on and off the field.”
Now, Tim Dulin, is the founder and president of the Dulins Dodgers travel team.
“It’s been a great experience,” Dalton Dulin said about growing up around his dad’s teams. “I grew up with Zack Cozart and Cody Overbeck, who’s with the Phillies, and Matt Cain, who just threw a perfect game. It’s crazy. I rode on the bus when I was 10 years old with these guys and now I’m looking at them on ESPN. . . Growing up around these guys is paying off and I can feel it with my personality on the field.”
Dulin certainly has some tools, but part of his charm as a player is in his demeanor. He has the confidence necessary to succeed in a game of failure. That swagger shows up off the field, as well.
In the Kanye West song, “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” Jay-Z rapped: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.”
Dulin has an entrepreneurial spirit and has already started branding himself with a logo he and a friend came up with: ATF100. It’s part of Dulin’s Twitter handle (@DDATF100), and it’s on his bats and his cleats.
“I’ve got one best friend and we’ve grown up together and we kind of came up with this motto,” Dulin said. “Everywhere we went, we tried to look good, so we came up with the saying ATF100, which is All Things Fresh 100. It’s just to keep it real with all the people who support you. So, we came up with some sweatshirts and sweatpants and we ended up selling them to our friends.”
Like most of the top prospects, Dalton’s summer is chock full of various tournaments and showcases.
After PG National wraps up, Dalton will head home for a couple days before going to Cary, N.C., for USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars. Dalton hopes he can follow in the footsteps of his father, who played on the 1984 USA Baseball World Cup team (along with Barry Bonds).