Don’t look now, but it’s almost July and the Twins are still playing winning baseball. Posting the best record in the American League (a distinction they held briefly a few weeks ago) is probably unrealistic and making the postseason will be difficult, but the Twins are worth watching again. Progress. Hope.
At the front of this 2015 renaissance is Brian Dozier. The 28-year-old second baseman is leading the AL in doubles, providing homerun pop and playing Gold Glove caliber defense behind the team’s rejuvenated starting rotation.
I met up with Dozier in the Twins clubhouse prior to Tuesday’s game for a quick chat.
DZ: It’s the first time in your major league career that you’ve been on a winning team, how much more fun is it coming into work?
DOZIER: When you come to the ballpark everyday knowing the situation you are in – that you are right in the thick of things, that you’ve got a really good chance of winning the game that night – that makes a total difference in the way you perform, the way you conduct yourself, everything.
DZ: Playing at second base, it’s been a little unstable at shortstop…what’s that challenge like for you?
DOZIER: Throughout the course of the past few years, I’ve had a lot of shortstops – (Danny) Santana, (Eduardo) Escobar, Pedro Florimon a couple of years ago – (Eduardo) Nunez has been playing short here of late. I feel like each and every guy; I’ve got a good feel of what they are trying to do with the ball – where they like on their feed, that kind of stuff. The main thing for me – I have a little tougher time – is their positioning, ground balls up the middle, coming up front, that kind of stuff – getting into attack mode on ground balls…The double play feeds come pretty easy…Whoever is out there whether it be Santana, Nunez, Escobar – they are all good shortstops, so that makes my job a lot easier.
DZ: How would you say your defense has evolved in your three-plus years here?
DOZIER: Obviously, I made the position change three years ago to second base and it’s been probably the best move of my career. It really was ‘ears open’ – learning from a lot of different people: Jamey Carroll, Joe Vavra, Molitor, Gardy. It’s helped me along the way to become the second baseman that I am now. It’s always good working with Vavra now and Molitor – even though everything is going well, you can still continue to get better at your game and make a point each and every day to strive to tweak different things to try to make myself better.
DZ: The All Star Game is coming up and obviously you’d probably like to be a part of that…Do you try not to think about that? What is your attitude toward it?
DOZIER: I’ve gotten a lot of questions about that recently, but I don’t really look at anything regarding that. I come to the ballpark trying to win a game each and every day and if, at the end of the day, whenever the voting comes out if I go there great, if I don’t, also great – I get a break from the game. It would be a great opportunity, but at the same time, it’s not the reason I play this game. Either way, I think I will be pretty happy.
DZ: If you were to make it would (the experience of) being in the Homerun Derby (last year) take the butterflies away a little bit?
DOZIER: It was a cool experience last year. It was my first time going to that event and being a part of all the activities and festivities and everything and bring my family up. It was cool to kind of get your feet wet at that kind of stuff – especially being at home last year.
DZ: Now the really hard stuff – I know you are a Saints fan, they got rid of Jimmy Graham; how are you feeling as they head into training camp?
DOZIER: I am a big Saints fan, my wife is from New Orleans, so once I met her in college, I became an even bigger Saints fan. We go to a lot of games in the offseason and I think it was a great move getting rid of Jimmy to kind of open up a lot more salary and bring in some key people to play defense which is what we needed. Drew Brees is my favorite athlete to watch play and it’s always good when he airs it out.
DZ: One last thing, I notice on your Twitter page, you prominently say you are a Christian. What role does your faith play in your career?
DOZIER: One hundred percent of everything that I do. I tell people I’ve got the best job in the world, but that’s not the reason I am on this earth. (The reason) is to spread the word, make disciples and that kind of thing. It just happens to be on one of the biggest platforms in the world of professional baseball. The opportunity to be a Christian on a big stage is the reason I play the game.