When Jasmine Dunston informed her father that she would be the White Sox’ new director of minor-league operations late last year, he was overcome with emotion.
Shawon Dunston wasn’t surprised that his daughter was moving up in the baseball world and accomplishing life goals, but to land a job of this stature after just one year in the industry with the Reds came as a bit of a shock.
“He cried like a baby, oh my goodness,” Jasmine Duntston said. “I had to repeat the title to him like five times. He was so shocked and stunned because people in baseball don’t get a director role after one year. So he was just proud.”
Shawon Dunston, a No. 1 draft pick who played 12 of his 18 seasons in the major leagues with the Cubs, including two as an All-Star, has four adult children with Tracie, his wife of 34 years. Shawon Jr. was drafted by the Cubs in 2011.
Jasmine, 31, was a scholarship softball player at Tennessee State who grew up around major-league baseball, attending Cubs games at Wrigley Field when Shawon was the North Siders’ shortstop beginning in 1995. While attending law school at John F. Kennedy University, Jasmine celebrated three World Series championships during her dad’s tenure as a Giants coach from 2009-2019.
She came to the Sox with an impressive resume, having received a masters degree in sports administration from Valparaiso, interning for All Pro Sports & Entertainment in Denver, working for the Raiders of the NFL and as a law clerk. She landed her first baseball job as a specialist in the Reds’ player development department a year ago.
“I am thankful to the Cincinnati Reds for my first opportunity in baseball and taking my development seriously after getting my foot in the door,” Jasmine said. “Nick Krall, Eric Davis, Shawn Pender, Cam Bonifay, Walt Jocketty, they took me seriously. No question was dumb. They talked baseball with me day in and out.”
Duntston is taking over for Grace Guerrero Zwit, who is easing into retirement after 40 years with the Sox. Hired by Roland Hemond and Dave Dombrowski when Tony La Russa was managing the Sox in 1982, Zwit was ahead of her time as an assistant in player development and scouting. A daughter to Mexican immigrants, she was the first woman to work in Sox baseball operations and she passes a meaningful baton to Duntston.
“They say I blazed a trail,” Zwit said. “I hoped I would be replaced by a female minority. I’m glad that they did it. It’s a good move.
“Jasmine is a smart girl, she grew up in baseball, played softball in college and has her law degree, so she’s definitely more than capable to handle it. There’s a lot to learn at once. But she’ll be great.”
Sox vice president Ken Williams, who in 1995 named Zwit his assistant director of scouting and minor-league operations, knew Shawon in their playing days and identified his daughter as an up-and-comer to replace Zwit. Dunston, 31, reports to assistant general manager/director of player development Chris Getz.
“I have big shoes to fill,” Jasmine said.
“Kenny identified Jasmine as the perfect fit to follow Grace in this role,” Getz said.
Said Dunston: “I hope I can make her proud, just keep the train rolling how she built it and keep growing from here.”
Proud? She certainly made her dad just that.
“I’m very humbled and excited for my daughter,” Shawon said.
While playing with the Cubs, Dunston did what he could to be a good family man despite the sacrifice of the baseball life. So his kids attended games with Tracie home and away. Meanwhile, Shawon talked baseball nonstop “whether I liked it or not,” Jasmine said. Shawon also taught them to learn to accept constructive criticism.
Unbeknownst to him at the time, he was preparing his daughter for a career in the game.
“We were always at Wrigley,” Jasmine said. “Those summers, I remember they were hot and I remember the family days, Dad signing autographs and riding in his convertible after games, waving to fans as we went by with their ‘Shawn-o-meter.’
“But my best days were his coaching days with the San Francisco Giants, I was older and able to understand the magnitude of winning three World Series titles in 2010, ’12 and ’14, and being with him in the clubhouse taking pictures holding the trophy.”
Fast forward to 2022, and Jasmine is playing a key administrative role in the Sox organization.
“Grace has been an extraordinary figure in White Sox baseball and throughout player development across baseball,” Getz said.
“Jasmine has an impressive resume combined with hands-on player development experience, positioning her as an ideal candidate to help prepare the next generation of White Sox talent.”