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Mississippi native fulfills dream in home run derby

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Brian Dozier grew up in tiny Fulton, Miss., a city nestled on the northeast edge of the Alabama border with less than 4,000 residents. But on Monday night, the former Southern Miss star had 40,000 people chanting his name as he stepped up to the batter’s box for the 2014 Home Run Derby. 

It was the stuff Kevin Costner movies are made of. The humble, hard-working kid from a small town lowers his head and grinds it out to success. So while a slight rain fell harmlessly to the ground at Target Field in Minneapolis, Dozier fulfilled a life-long dream.

“It means a lot. I’m very thankful,” Dozier said. “(American League captain) Jose (Bautista) picked me to be on the team, a very classy move from a classy man. And the Twins want a hometown guy, and it’s awesome representing the Twins here at home.”

The Minnesota second baseman gave hometown fans something to cheer for as unified screams of his name bounced off the walls of the stadium. If he were the least recognizable player on a field full of stars, nobody in attendance or watching on TV would have noticed.

“The crowd was electric,” he said. “They kept chanting ‘Dozier.’ It was one of the highlights of my career, and really my life, to be honest with you. Chills came over my body and everything.”

The former USM letter-winner chose his brother Clay, a former Delta State pitcher, to throw to him, rounding out the Mississippi connection and providing an explanation to his brother’s sudden surge of power.

“I have no clue where that came from,” Clay said. “He couldn’t hit it out of the infield in high school. I don’t know if it’s because of his lower-body workout, but we’re all mesmerized.”

Dozier never hit more than nine home runs in a season during his four-year stint in the minor leagues, but this year he has exploded for 18 knocks before the All-Star break. That power, combined with his slick glove and run-scoring ability, has made him one of the top second basemen in the MLB this season.

And while Dozier was only able to crank two bombs in his first time at the plate — eliminating him in the first round — the experience certainly outweighed the disappointment in losing. To Brian Dozier, this was a win from the moment he was selected.

“I know everybody here, especially the fans of the Twins, would be very excited. Not for myself, but everybody up here, (to see) some of the stars in the game that can hit a lot of home runs,” Dozier said. “So I am just blessed to be up here along with these guys. It is pretty humbling for me.”