Higher power: Faith comes first for Twins’ rising Dozier

Brian Dozier puts his needs behind those of the Minnesota Twins, but his team is secondary to his faith.(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Brian Dozier puts his needs behind those of the Minnesota Twins, but his team is secondary to his faith.(AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

By Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

Brian Dozier isn’t concerned about Brian Dozier. That may just be the secret to his Major League success.

The 26-year-old former Itawamba AHS and Southern Miss star and current Minnesota Twins second baseman has a list of priorities, Brian is last on the list.

“We’ve made a lot of acquisitions to better our team. That’s the first thing. We want to win baseball games,” said Dozier, a former Journal Player of the Year, before his key note speech at last week’s Itawamba CC Leadoff Banquet in Fulton.

Brandon Speck | Buy at photos.djournal.com Brian Dozier, seen signing an autograph for a fan last week at ICC, spent time this offseason doing mission work in Nicaragua. "It really puts things in perspective," the former Fulton star said.

Brandon Speck | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Brian Dozier, seen signing an autograph for a fan last week at ICC, spent time this offseason doing mission work in Nicaragua. “It really puts things in perspective,” the former Fulton star said.

Of course he wants to be as personally successful as he can, but only because that will make the Twins better. But Dozier will proudly tell you his greatest mission doesn’t lie in his stats, or the Twins’.

He’s doing more than his offseason share of baseball work to continue what has been a steady climb toward his third season – last season named the Twins’ Most Improved Player after a move from short to second. But for more than a week in Nicaragua, his workout included a shovel, not a bat.

In November, Dozier and now-wife Renee went to Nicaragua on a mission trip, digging trenches to give locals a clean water supply.

“I recommend it to anybody,” Dozier said. “It was kind of a life-changing thing, put things in perspective. It was really awesome.”

As a 2012 call-up, Dozier hit .234 in 84 games. Last season, his average, slugging and on-base percentages rose, on-base 123 points to .726.

Staying in the Majors

Dozier said he had to realize what kind of hitter he was in the Majors and feels he did that last season. Thanks to some adjustments with hitting coach Tom Brunansky, he hit a career-high 18 home runs, a club record for a second baseman. His 55 extra-base hits ranked third among the position in the American League. Dozier found his swing and is now expressing a desire to steal more than 2013’s total of 14 bases now that a bone bruise in his left knee is healed.

“You always hear, it’s so hard to get there, but it really is harder to stay,” Dozier said. “The amount of work that I see each and every day from guys that have 15-20 years in the Major Leagues, the amount that they put in, outworking rookies, that’s what’s special to see.”

Dozier’s defense improved last season as well, going from 15 errors as a rookie to six.

His .992 fielding percentage was tied for second among Major League second basemen – numbers that further prove to Minnesota his staying power. The Twins named him Defensive Player of the Year. His 5.22 range factor ranked first in the Majors among his position.

Off the field, the Twin Cities Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America honored him with the “Media Good Guy” award.

Dozier seemingly has the sky as his limit, but there’s more to him than a bat and glove and a side of him he’d probably rather talk to you about. Nicaragua may not have done anything to promote his career, or make him better at fielding a short hop. But it did improve a Christian faith he holds higher than the game he loves.

“That’s what my life’s all about,” Dozier said. “I tell all the time, I’m a Christian just playing baseball on the side. That’s what I stand for and we have a lot of guys the same way up there.”

brandon.speck@journalinc.com