---- — By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
If he had his druthers, Nick Dunn would have opted for something far less ceremonial. An appreciative nod and a firm handshake, perhaps.
Instead, he was summoned to the area between the pitcher's mound and home plate at Pineknotter Park prior to Wednesday's American Legion baseball game between Sunbury/Northumberland and Line Mountain.
There, all eyes focused on the Shikellamy rising junior and several men who gathered for a presentation. Dunn stood stiffly, like a toddler in an Easter Sunday suit, while Sunbury/Norry Legion rep Dick Simpson emceed the brief award ceremony.
"I just like to be humble about stuff," Dunn explained. "It's nice to be noticed, but it's just kind of how I am."
Of course, it's difficult to avoid being the center of attention when you do something that draws so much.
Dunn broke Shikellamy's single-season batting record this past high school season, shattering a mark that stood for nearly a half-century.
He hit .544 over 20 games to eclipse the .523 posted by Dennis Weir in 1966, Shikellamy High's first year of existence following the merger of the Sunbury and Northumberland school districts.
During Wednesday's ceremony, Weir, and Dunn were each presented a silver commemorative bat emblazoned with the particulars of their individual achievements.
"I didn't expect anything of it other than to meet Nick," said Weir, a Braves senior third baseman and team captain in '66. "It's very nice."
There's a chance nothing would have come of it had Mike Reed not heard of the record from friend and Sunbury/Northumberland Legion manager Travis Fisher.
Reed, a catcher and team captain on Shikellamy's '94 league championship team, was spurred to action by the "perfect situation" of his neighbor (Dunn) breaking the long-standing record of his former junior varsity coach (Weir).
"Forty-seven years is a long time," said Reed, sales manager at Blaise Alexander Cadillac. "I said, Is anyone doing anything about it because i'd certainly like to. Travis found the bats, and we (Alexander's) donated the money. I thought it was a good thing for (Dunn). I've never seen a kid work harder."
Dunn's father, John, currently a Shikellamy assistant coach, was a high school standout at Shamokin in the mid-80s, batting .444 overall (.478 in the Schuylkill League) as a senior. He shook his head and offered a shrug when asked about his son's sophomore-season achievement.
"I was surprised. I didn't expect the success to come this fast, and I think we were all a little surprised at the high average this year," he said. "It's a lot of God-given ability and just a lot of hard work. He's constantly hitting. We put a cage up in our yard a couple years ago and he's always out there. He does a lot of extra work ... and he'll hit until he feels like he had a good round."
In addition to collecting 31 hits in 57 at-bats, Dunn had a team-high 19 RBIs and was one run shy of the team lead with 17. His eight doubles and two home runs led the 8-12 Braves.
"I keep the same approach every at-bat: try to hit it hard and get a hit," he said. "I just took it game by game."
Dunn had multiple hits in half his games, including four games with three knocks. He went hitless just three times.
"Hitting over .500? That's pretty incredible, especially as a sophomore," said Reed.
Weir's senior season was the year before Bob Lagerman took over as the Braves head coach. Lagerman coached 28 years, through Reed's senior season, and Weir was his assistant for 14 of them (1975-88). He saw a slew of strong hitters, enough to believe his mark had long since been topped.
"I knew I'd hit .523, but I thought there were guys after me -- like Blaze Funk, and so many guys -- that I thought had higher batting averages. So I never gave (the batting record) a thought until just recently," said Weir. "I was never one for individual awards or anything; I always tried to put the team first.
"And it was short season -- nothing like it is now. We'd played (12) games, so if you got hot you could get a high average."
As Weir made his way to a bleacher seat Wednesday with his family -- including daughter Michele Wallace, a Shikellamy teacher who had Nick Dunn in class this past school year -- he turned to a bystander and said with a laugh, "My grandson (Trey Wallace) told me, 'Don't worry, grandpa. In a couple years I'll get the record back.'"