By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
MINNEAPOLIS – If Brian Dozier wasn’t sure whether he wanted to pursue a professional baseball career after high school, it took little time for him to figure that out in college.
“Once I started playing and seeing the competition and everything it kinda set in that that’s what I want to do the rest of my life,” Dozier said last week. “I knew it was gonna be a tough road ahead but, at the same time, something I wanted to do.”
Dozier – now the everyday shortstop for the Minnesota Twins – almost missed his road to Major League Baseball, however.
The Fulton native was drafted in the seventh round by the Chicago Cubs after his junior season at Southern Miss. But with the majority of the team returning, Dozier decided to stay in Hattiesburg for his senior year.
Things didn’t go as smoothly as planned for Dozier his final collegiate season. A broken collarbone halfway through the year presented a possible roadblock to his dream of playing professionally.
“Everything ran through my mind,” Dozier said. “Your typical somebody that comes back for their senior year, gets hurt, something’s gonna happen and not be able to get drafted.”
Dozier overcame those thoughts and, after twelve weeks of rehab, was able to return to the lineup in Omaha after the Golden Eagles made their magical run through the postseason to the College World Series.
‘Dream come true’
“It was a dream come true for me to play in the College World Series, especially how it went down coming off rehab,” he said. “That’s by far the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
The Twins ended any fears Dozier had of going undrafted by selecting him in the eighth round of the 2009 draft.
Dozier wasted no time and began to move quickly through Minnesota’s minor league organizations, spending little more than half a season at the most with each team before being promoted.
It took less than three years for the 25-year-old to propel his way to the big leagues. His contract was purchased by the Twins from Triple-A Rochester, N.Y., on May 7.
The Itawamba AHS graduate was quick to credit his past coaches in high school and college for his quick trip through the minors.
“Those guys taught the game the right way,” said Dozier. “The ins and outs, how to run balls out, the little things to succeed not only on the baseball field but in life.”
Thanks in part to those “little things,” Dozier has made it to the top of the baseball totem poll, where he’s already won over his peers in the short time he’s been in Minnesota.
“He’s a good young player that’s got all the tools,” said Josh Willingham, a Florence, Ala., native who’s the starting left fielder for the Twins. “I think he’s gonna get every opportunity to be successful and he’s done a really good job.”