Adam Dunn: The home run-strikeout artist ahead of his time

Adam Dunn's 2,379 strikeouts are the third-most in MLB history, behind only Reggie Jackson and Jim Thome. AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles

Adam Dunn joined Mark Reynolds in Major League Baseball's 40-homer, 200-strikeout club in the summer of 2012, at a time when that all-or-nothing statistical combination seemed absurd to the point of unthinkable.

Dunn launched 462 home runs and whiffed 2,379 times over 14 career seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and three other teams. Throw in 1,317 walks, and he was the quintessential "three true outcomes" hitter before the term became fashionable.

In the end, Dunn never reached the biggest threshold of all. He was approaching 500 career homers -- a milestone achieved by only 27 players in MLB history -- when he announced his retirement via Twitter in October 2014. He went home to his wife and three children in Houston and settled into life as a family man, free of second thoughts or regrets.

Now 37, Dunn stays busy rooting for the Texas Longhorns and coaching a youth team in the Marucci Texas League. An ardent fisherman, Dunn recently won a boat in a bass fishing tournament.

"I had to find something to get the juices back flowing," he said. "This tournament fishing, it does the job."

Dunn -- affectionately known as the "Big Donkey'' during his playing days -- shared his thoughts on retirement and the state of today's home run-happy, strikeout-laden game in a conversation with ESPN.com.

There's a perception that today's hitters simply swing for the fences and don't care how often they strike out. How did you feel about strikeouts?

Adam Dunn: You would think I would have gotten used to striking out and sucking. It devastated me every single time. But my thing was, every single game, I tried to have some sort of approach. I would just look at the pitcher and catcher and their tendencies and the philosophy of the other team.

I would always get myself in holes. I would be 0-2 a lot, and obviously, it's hard to hit 0-2. But right or wrong, I had a plan, and I would try to stick to it the entire game and not get away from it.

There's a pride factor (with striking out), but I tried to let the game dictate situations. With a guy on third and less than two outs, it's time to put the ball in play and get that guy in. If there are two outs and nobody on in the first inning, I'm looking for something I can drive for a double. I'm not going to swing at a first-pitch changeup and ground out to first base. What does that do?

From what you've seen, what do you think of the modern emphasis on power and the proliferation of strikeouts?

AD: Everything evolves, and this is the era we're in. People see if you hit homers and drive in a lot of runs, you're going to get where you need to get financially. Does it help a team if you have a couple of those guys? Yeah. But if you have nine of them, it's going to be tough.

Here's a great example: Where's the two-hole hitter nowadays? Where's the Barry Larkin? He's a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players to play the game. And when he was hitting in the two hole and someone led off with a double, he would hit a ground ball to second base and get that guy over 9.5 times out of 10. He would be 0-for-1 in the stats, and it didn't help him, but he was trying to get the guy over every single time when the situation called for it. Where's that guy today?

When people reflect on your career, they think of the homers and strikeouts and your designation as a "three true outcomes'' hitter. What did you think of that term and your identification with it?

AD: At the time, I didn't really pay attention to it. I never looked at myself as that low-batting average guy, but I kind of morphed into it. I always thought one day I would wake up and the old Adam would be back and we would roll. Maybe he'll show up when I'm 40.

So there's still a chance you could come out of retirement?

AD: No, no, no. Maybe in slow pitch.

How else has the game changed since you broke into the majors with Cincinnati in 2001?

AD: Team chemistry. That part of the game is dead, in my opinion.

How so?

AD: I kind of caught the tail end of what I think of as the old-school way. Just little stuff, like kangaroo court. Or a veteran would walk into the shower and tell a kid, "Beat it -- it's my shower." In the second half of my career, all that was gone. People didn't respect the older guys anymore.

Twenty minutes after the game now, everyone is gone. Guys are catching cabs and going to play Xbox. Don't get me wrong. I play Xbox, but I also like to sit and talk shop. You learn about a lot of things. I learned about my house just by listening to other guys that were building houses. I'd say, "Man, that's a great idea. When I build a house, I'm going to do same thing." Just little stuff like that.

Former Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi once created a stir by saying you didn't like baseball, and later apologized for his comments. Looking back at your career, did you enjoy being a ballplayer?

AD: I loved being on the field. I wanted to play every single game, and I never asked for days off. That was one thing Junior Griffey and me always talked about. We called it a "good, solid benching." If you got an off day, the manager could spin it however they wanted. They could call it a mental day or a rest or whatever. But we looked at it like, "Just tell me the truth. We're sucking and we're hurting the team. That's why we're getting benched."

You actually appeared in 1,108 of 1,134 games during one seven-year stretch.

AD: I signed up to play 162, and if I'm not playing 162, there's a reason. I'm either really, really hurt, which didn't happen very often, or I was sucking. I could live with that. Mental days? Come on, man. Are you kidding me? Rest? I'm tired? How are you tired? You signed up for 162, man. Play 162. You don't need off days. I don't care if you played 20 days in a row.

You're tied with Jose Canseco for 35th place on MLB's career list with 462 home runs. Do you ever regret not sticking around and hitting those 38 extra homers to reach 500?

AD: Honestly, I don't. My dad always said, "If you're not enjoying what you're doing, you're not only wasting your time -- you're wasting everybody else's time." I just wasn't having fun at the end. It was more of a job. I was always thinking about what the kids were doing. They would call me and I was wishing I was there. It would have been terrible for me to stick around and take up a roster spot from somebody who would have given their right arm for it. It was time to go.

Do you think I could have hit 500? I do, and that's good enough for me. I wasn't going to hang around just to chase a number.

You mentioned Ken Griffey. How happy were you to see him sail into the Hall of Fame?

AD: I was real excited for him. If anyone ever deserves it, it was that guy. Not a lot of people get to see the real Ken. People see Junior, but they don't see Ken. He's a great person.

Do you keep in touch with other former teammates and baseball friends?

AD: Oh yeah. I still talk to Larkin. Sean Casey. Aaron Boone. Jay Bruce. I literally just got off the phone with Sonny Gray. Chipper Jones. Brian McCann. Adam LaRoche ... quite a few of them.

How did you gravitate to coaching youth ball?

AD: When I retired, I took over this facility here in Houston called Baseball USA. We started running youth teams, and a bunch of these kids were freshmen in the summer of 2015. I wasn't doing anything, so I said, "I'm going to coach them." The next thing you know, you get attached to these little turds.

Now it's their junior summer and I'm still coaching the same group. We've got some studs. These kids are so good, I can't teach them much. I did so many things wrong on the field, I can tell you what's wrong. But I can't tell you what's right.

Do the kids call you Coach Dunn or Mr. Dunn?

AD: I told them, "I don't need to be called 'Coach.'" but they're so respectful. It's either "Coach" or "Mr. Dunn." I'm like, "Call me Adam, guys. I'm not that much older and I'm way cooler."

You had a cameo role as a bartender in the movie "Dallas Buyers Club," a film you helped fund with your producer friend, Joe Newcomb. Are there more acting roles in your future?

AD: I won't do the acting stuff. It's too much time and too much getting yelled at, actually.

And too many groupies?

AD: No doubt. I can't go anywhere without people saying, "You're that bartender, aren't you?" I'm like, "Yeah, that's me."

How closely do you follow baseball in your retirement?

AD: I'm gonna be honest -- I do not watch much baseball. If I know Chris Sale is pitching, I'll try to watch him throw. Or I'll watch Brian McCann when the Astros are playing. I'm not an "anti-baseball, he's-not-gonna-watch-it" tough guy. But when I watch TV, it's usually "Paw Patrol" or whatever the kids want to watch.

Do you plan to check out the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby?

AD: If it's on, I'll probably watch it. Maybe.

You made two All-Star teams as a player. Did you ever participate in a Home Run Derby?

AD: No, I never did. But Junior and me did it every day. We would take the last two rounds and play a game and do all that kind of stuff. We tried to make it fun, man.

He was "First Row Ken." Every ball he hit would be in the first row. I think he wound up owing me about 17 or 18 paychecks.

Would he ever admit to that?

AD: Absolutely not.