It was essentially as though Dunn had left on a road trip and returned, only now he must head to the visitors' locker room with the A’s.
Dunn is staying at his downtown residence this week, making his route to the ballpark the one he followed for nearly four years. And beyond the obvious change of uniform, there were other signs that things were different.
Former teammates Chris Sale and John Danks went in on a going-away gift they presented to Dunn on Monday. The only catch was that he had to come to the White Sox trainer’s room to get it. When he reluctantly came into the opposing clubhouse and opened the double doors to the back room, Dunn was actually moved.
A burnt-orange golf cart with a Texas Longhorns logo on the side was waiting for him. Dunn, a native of Texas, attended the university, where he played baseball and was a backup quarterback on the football team.
“I don’t know. It’s awesome. I don’t know how else to put it,” Dunn said. “For Chris and John to do that -- and they’re pitchers, which is kind of weird -- but for those two guys to think about doing it and actually do it, that means everything. I won’t tell them now, but everybody says it’s the thought that counts and it’s true. They could have handed me a Texas pencil, but it’s really cool of them. I probably won’t sell it immediately. I’ll probably keep it for a while.”
Finding a connection with his teammates was never difficult for Dunn. Finding a bond with the fans was another matter. After signing a four-year, $56 million contract, Dunn hit just 11 home runs, with 42 RBIs and a .159 batting average, in 2011, his first season on the South Side. He had just 66 hits.
The booing started quickly and never really relented, even though Dunn did hit 41 home runs the following season, with 96 RBIs. His 700-plus strikeouts with the White Sox were always a reminder of an unfulfilled contract.
“I get it. I get it,” Dunn said. “I had a fantasy team not do very well this week and I wasn’t happy with those guys, either. But I get it. Obviously it makes it harder, but it comes with the territory. Hopefully we can make them boo again tonight.”
Dunn admitted that it is awkward to return to his old stomping grounds so soon, and added that it’s too early to assess his time in Chicago. He’s trying to put his energy into helping the A’s into the playoffs and experience the postseason for himself for the first time.
As for where the White Sox are headed, Dunn figured it was going to be a tough transition this season as the roster was rebuilt, but he is impressed with the direction the team is headed.
“I know they have some really talented players,” Dunn said. “Obviously with Jose [Abreu], and you have Chris [Sale] at the top of the rotation, but people don’t talk about guys like Alexei [Ramirez]. A lot of times he’s the forgotten guy, and Conor [Gillaspie]. They have a great nucleus around them. It won’t surprise me one bit if these guys come out and do something really cool next year.”
As for saying on the day he was traded that he would retire at the end of the year, the 34-year-old has cooled a little on that stance, but doesn’t feel like discussing it anymore.
“Yeah, now that I’m in it, I haven’t even given it any more thought,” Dunn said. “I have enough to think about now. That’s the farthest thing from my mind right now. Luckily I don’t have to make that decision now and we’ll worry about that at the end of the year.”