Credit: Contributed

Unlike the NBA’s annual draft that begins tonight (Thursday) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the NFL’s, held earlier in the year, both red carpet events, Major League Baseball’s annual draft is held each June without the luster and fanfare of those other two competing sports.

Since 1965, the MLB Draft assigns amateur baseball players from high schools, colleges and other amateur baseball clubs to its league’s teams, currently 30, 15 in the American League and 15 in the National. The team with the worst record last season gets to pick first.

The New York Mets, who’ve had some difficult times so far this season, chose right-handed pitcher, Justin Dunn, a local prospect from Freeport, Long Island, the 19th pick in the first round of last year’s 2016 MLB Draft.

Dunn, who turns 22 in September, was a student athlete at Boston College and now pitches for the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ minor league organization—a league that, historically, has had a major reputation for being very hard, very tough.

“It is tough,” said Dunn, without any hesitation, expounding upon his first year in the minors. “From top to bottom, everyone in the minor leagues can play. As a pitcher, you don’t really see a lineup where you can say, ‘This guy can’t hurt me.’”

Dunn, whose mom Donna sported a Mets’ cap during this interview, grew up as a Yankees fan. That other New York baseball team.

“I was a Yankees fan growing up,” Dunn admitted. “It was hard not to be, especially when your father is a die-hard fan. I shared that with him, but as I got older and realized playing pro ball was an option for me, I stopped watching baseball as a fan and watched as a student of the game. I watched games more for players than for teams, and just enjoyed watching good baseball.”

As a first year player, Dunn, like all young drafted players, had several things to learn. “How to be a professional” is mentioned first. “Pro ball is different than college ball. For the first time, playing this game is your job,” Dunn explained. “You need to learn how to take care of your body, handle long road trips and mentally prepare yourself for every game,” noted the 6-foot-2, 184 pounder. “As a pitcher, you have to learn to mix your pitches, and change eye levels, which is changing a hitter’s perception of a pitch that they might be expecting, looking for.”

He continued, “For me, it’s been a mental thing. Earlier this year, I had to deal with some struggles on the field. I had to work myself through it and understand that each day is a new day, and that I can’t dwell on the last outing.” Pitchers only pitch in scheduled games every four or five days, which gives them plenty of time to think, to rehash their last performance. “Those are just a few of the skills that you need to pitch in the big leagues,” said Dunn, patiently waiting for his chance to get there.