Alan Dunn had been to the apex of his profession, working for nearly 20 years in Major League Baseball.
But when the LSU pitching coach job became open, he felt a career-changing tug at his heartstrings.
“My heart has always been being a pitching coach and being in that environment where you have your guys and you’re with them every single day,” said Dunn, who was introduced as the Tigers’ bullpen boss Friday in a news conference at Alex Box Stadium. “My heart was telling me I want to get back to where I was teaching again and try to hopefully make a difference in some people’s lives.
“To have an opportunity to come to LSU, it was obviously icing on the cake.”
A former pitcher at Alabama and one-time assistant at Vanderbilt, the 49-year-old Dunn comes to LSU from the Baltimore Orioles, where he was the club’s minor league pitching coordinator.
Before that, Dunn spent three seasons as Baltimore’s bullpen coach, but was reassigned when new manager Buck Showalter brought in his own staff for the 2011 season.
From 1993-2007, Dunn worked in the Chicago Cubs organization, serving as minor league pitching coordinator in 2007, but before that working as pitching coach for six clubs in the Chicago farm system.
It was during a nine-year stint with the Double A West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx that Dunn crossed paths with former Cub and current St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ryan Theriot.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri made Theriot one of his background checks when he became interested in hiring Dunn.
Mainieri said he had many enthusiastic endorsements of Dunn, and included Theriot in the chorus.
“I mentioned Alan’s name and (Theriot) said, ?Are you kidding me? That’s unbelievable. What a perfect fit he’d be for LSU,’” Mainieri said.
Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush told Mainieri he wanted to hire Dunn when Bush became head coach at UNO, but he couldn’t pay him enough.
“His response was that I may have the perfect guy,” Mainieri said.
“I probably have talked to 15 different people that have come in contact with him and have worked with him throughout the years, and the reaction from each one of them when I mention the name Alan Dunn was consistent right across the board. You could almost feel the person jumping out of their skin with enthusiasm when they would talk about this guy and what he could bring to the table.”
Financial terms of Dunn’s contract have not been finalized. He will have a one-year deal and is expected to have a salary similar to former pitching coach David Grewe, who made $150,000.
Mainieri said Grewe submitted his resignation on May 12, a day before the Tigers began their last regular-season series against Tennessee.
Mainieri said he talked to some college pitching coaches^=paring a list of pitching coaches from the nation’s top 50 programs to about 15^=but decided to think “out of the box” and see if he could draw interest from someone in the professional ranks.
Mainieri said Dunn ended up being the only coach he brought to Baton Rouge for an interview.
“I talked to two other pro baseball coaches,” Mainieri said. “But the more I learned about Alan, the more I got to know him, the more I knew he was right for us.”
Dunn said he and Mainieri still have some details to work out^=who will call the pitches during games, for one^=but did give some insight into his pitching philosophy.
“My philosophy is basically I want to instruct these kids on what they do best,” said Dunn, who pitched at Alabama and goes by the nickname, “A.D.” “For me, that’s huge that they know themselves and they know what type of pitchers they’re going to be. When I do that, I will be able to formulate my plan as to how we are going to implement what they do best to help LSU continue the success that we’ve always known here.”
With the advent of the new, less-powerful bats in college baseball, Mainieri said more emphasis will be on pitching, something former LSU coach Skip Bertman concurred with.
“This is the time to be a pitching guy,” said Bertman, whose background was also as a pitching coach.
Bertman said Mainieri invited him to meet Dunn after the hire was made.
“We talked awhile,” Bertman said. “He’s a nice guy, and gosh knows he’s got all kinds of pitching info. He’s a family man, the kind of guy you want representing your school.
“He’s probably a good recruiting asset with his background.”
Unlike the case was with Grewe, Mainieri said he will likely spread the recruiting duties around the staff, including himself.
He does plan to have Dunn on the road visiting with current and future recruits as soon as he passes his NCAA certification test (Dunn will take it on June 20).
“If I was a young kid who aspired to play at the big-league level and go to college, the chance to work with somebody who for the last 20 years had as his sole purpose to help people become major-leaguers, you’d get the best of all worlds,” Mainieri said.