Fans show appreciation of Twins’ Dozier in brief Home Run Derby outing

Minnesota's Brian Dozier was only able to hit two home runs in the first round of Monday's Home Run Derby, which wasn't enough to advance to the second round. Still, the Twins' second baseman had a blast.

Jeff Curry

MINNEAPOLIS — "Dozier! Dozier! Dozier!"

The chants rang throughout Target Field on Monday night as the hometown fans encouraged their representative in the Home Run Derby. Twins second baseman Brian Dozier was perhaps the unlikeliest of all 10 participants in Monday’s event, but his impressive first-half numbers backed up the selection.

After hitting two homers Sunday against Colorado, Dozier headed into the All-Star Break with 18 long balls this year. Unfortunately for Dozier, he was only able to hit two home runs in the first round of Monday’s Home Run Derby, which wasn’t enough to advance to the second round.

Regardless, the experience was one Dozier won’t soon forget.

"They started chanting ‘Dozier!’ and that’s probably one of the most highlighted moments in my life, to be honest with you," Dozier said. "Chills came over my body and everything."

On the mound to pitch to Dozier was his older brother, Clay, who pitched and played outfield in college. Two years older than his big-league brother, Clay Dozier is now an accountant, but he was able to take time to head north to Minnesota to share the spotlight with his brother.

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The younger Dozier said Clay was warming his arm up in a park in their hometown in Mississippi in anticipation for Monday’s big event.

"He’s two years older than me. We’ve had our share of bloody knuckles and all this kind of stuff, but at the end of the day it’s brother love. He’s always kind of pushed me without him even knowing it because I wanted to be better than him at everything," Brian Dozier said. "I wanted to beat him at everything. He was a heck of a baseball player, too. . . . He had the same dream as I did of being a professional baseball player. He kind of lives that dream through me, I guess. It’s pretty cool."

With Clay pitching to him, Dozier sent just two baseballs over the fence on Monday in his home park. It wasn’t enough to advance in the American League bracket as Jose Bautista, Adam Jones, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson all hit more than Dozier.

Dozier did outslug Dodgers star Yasiel Puig, who was shut out in the first round. And Dozier also tied his former Twins teammate Justin Morneau, who had two in the opening round before losing in a swing-off to Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier.

In his rookie season in 2012, Dozier hit just six homers in 84 games. He never really put up power numbers in the minors, either, launching a total of 16 home runs in four seasons. But after May of the 2013 season, Dozier made a change in his swing. The tweak that hitting coach Tom Brunansky helped him with has led to more power. He launched a total of 18 homers last year, 16 of which came after May.

Dozier has continued to see his power numbers rise. And with 18 home runs and 16 stolen bases, he has a chance to join the 30-30 club by season’s end.

"Coming into this season, I wanted to steal more bases and keep the power numbers up," Dozier said. "It just so happens it is what it is now. It’s been a lot of fun so far."

Dozier was hoping to be selected to play in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. When that good news didn’t come, he made plans to head back home to Mississippi to spend time with family.

But when Bautista, the AL captain, was filling out his lineup, he gave Dozier a call. Bautista knew what it would mean for Twins fans to see a hometown hero in the derby.

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"It’s a huge, classy move for Bautista to pick a hometown guy, especially all the fans seemingly wanted a hometown guy," said Dozier, who had about a dozen family members at Target Field on Monday. "I happened to be that choice this year. At the same time, hats off to Jose. He made a lot of people happy."

Dozier received one of the loudest ovations of the night, with only the reception that fans gave Morneau topping it. The former teammates had plenty of good things to say about each other on Monday, one day after Dozier hit a pair of homers in a win against Morneau’s Rockies.

"They asked me about him, and he’s a guy I said, ‘You’ve got to watch this guy play because he’s a very good baseball player. He can do everything, and he’s one of the best defensive second basemen in the game,’" Morneau said of Dozier. "He’s one of the more underrated players in the game, I think. It’s unfortunate that he’s not in the actual game itself because he really belongs in in it."

There may come another chance for Dozier to take part in an All-Star Game, but it wasn’t meant to be this year. Instead, the 27-year-old Twins second baseman will cherish the opportunity to put on that American League uniform — and do so in front of the Minnesota fans that have embraced him over the last three years.

"It was a good experience, my first one. Who knows if it’ll be my last one or not," Dozier said. "I’ll tell you what. Win, lose or draw, that was one of the highlights of my life."

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