Shawon Dunston Jr. embracing name, still working toward majors

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Shawon Dunston Jr. is still looking to make the major leagues. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

These days, Shawon Dunston Jr. embraces sharing a name with his famous father. He hasn’t always.

‘‘I think when I was younger I didn’t embrace it,’’ said Dunston, an outfielder with the American Association’s Chicago Dogs. ‘‘It’s great what he did [during] his career. But the funny thing [is], I look at my dad first as Dad, then a baseball player. It’s not the other way around.’’

Dunston, 25, said he learned to embrace what he has and not view it as a burden. He said it’s great that his dad played, which gave the younger Dunston the chance to experience many things and learn a lot. But having the same name as the former Cubs shortstop brings challenges. One of them was how outsiders would view his career, something his dad warned him about.

‘‘He always said, ‘You’re lose-lose,’ ’’ Dunston said. ‘‘ ‘You do well, you do well because I played.’ If I don’t do well: ‘Oh, you’re not good. How can you not be good if your dad played?’

‘‘Honestly, I just tried to do everything he taught me [and] carve my own name.’’

Dunston was selected by the Cubs in the 11th round of the MLB Draft in 2011 but never advanced past Class A ball. He was dealt to the Giants’ organization in 2016 and became a free agent last fall, though he didn’t find a home in affiliated ball and wound up joining the Dogs.

‘‘The free-agent process wasn’t real nice to some players, and one of them was me,’’ Dunston said. ‘‘I know what I can do on the baseball field and get back on track. [I’m] grateful to keep playing and doing what I love. I know what the long-term goal is.’’

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That goal is playing in the major leagues, though injuries have slowed Dunston’s progress. He has had at least one stint on the disabled list every year since 2013, and he didn’t make his Dogs debut until Monday because of a quad injury.

But Dunston isn’t giving up on making the majors and hasn’t thought much about doing something other than baseball.

‘‘I love what I do,’’ he said. ‘‘I love baseball. It’s all I wanted to do. Even though [playing in the majors] seems real far from now, you can’t lose faith. Believe in yourself, and good things will happen.’’

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