Major league baseball: For Dozier and Escobar, success comes with hard work
WORTHINGTON — Brian Dozier became a major league baseball All-Star in 2015. But in the spring of 2012 he was just a rookie hoping to show off enough skills to stick with the Minnesota Twins.
Dozier had obvious ability, but like with every young player, those abilities had to be developed. How, then, did he advance in three short years from a call-up to an elite performer who became the 16th player in major league history to hit a home run in his first All-Star at-bat?
“The biggest thing, I found this out during my rookie year from (batting coach) Tom Brunansky,” Dozier explained Wednesday morning at the Worthington YMCA. “He said you gotta find what kind of hitter you are.”
Dozier, teammate Eduardo Escobar and former Twin and current radio analyst Dan Gladden were in Worthington Wednesday during a pit stop of the team’s annual Winter Caravan. Former star pitcher and current television analyst Jack Morris was also scheduled to appear at the local YMCA, but he was unable to come due to a family emergency.
A large crowd came to greet their baseball heroes and the threesome didn’t disappoint, cracking a few jokes, talking about their careers and distributing signed baseballs and other trinkets to the luckier fans in attendance.
After the public program, Dozier and Escobar chatted briefly with the media.
Few middle infielders ever become home run hitters, but Dozier has developed quickly into a long-ball threat with the help of Brunansky and other positive influences like former teammates Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham and Jim Thome.
“I was not a power hitter in high school, college, anywhere,” Dozier recalled.
But with the Twins, he set about to make an adjustment in his swing to utilize his power. He began to attack the ball more, also learning to become more disciplined at the plate.
In 2014, Dozier became the first second baseman in Twins history to log a 20/20 season (20 or more home runs and 20 or more stolen bases). He was selected in 2015 as an All-Star roster replacement, and he entered the game as an eighth-inning pinch hitter whereupon he cracked one of his more memorable homers. After hitting 18 home runs in his first full major league season in 2013, he hit 23 in 2014 and 28 in 2015 while batting .236 and providing consistently high-caliber defense.
“The slower you make the game, the easier it gets,” Dozier told a reporter Wednesday morning.
But how do you slow it down?
“One thing is having confidence. Embrace the fact that you’re a big leaguer and don’t let yourself struggle too much looking at all those superstars. When you sit back, you can turn the page. Then you can be the player that you hope you can be,” he said.
With Escobar, as with Dozier, success came with hard work. A utility infielder who can also play the outfield, Escobar has been with the Twins for four seasons and in 2015 he hit .262 with 12 home runs in 409 at bats.
“When you’re working hard, you come to believe,” Escobar summed up his major league philosophy Wednesday through the help of a Spanish interpreter.
Born in Villa de Cura, Venezuela, Escobar said he had a lot of problems growing up due in part to an absentee father. He learned to work hard and develop confidence in himself as a child. His mother worked hard, too, earning money as a housecleaner. Escobar said he decided he would work hard, as well, to become a success so that his mother didn’t have to work.
“Everything is good,” he said, smiling.
In Worthington on Wednesday, Gladden acted as emcee while Dozier and Escobar fielded questions from the people in the audience — many who came dressed in Twins shirts and caps and some of them carrying personal items for the players to sign.
Escobar told the fans that he liked being in the Caravan but didn’t like the cold winter weather. He summed up how different it is to play for current manager Paul Molitor as opposed to former manager Ron Gardenhire.
Both are great persons, Escobar said, but Molitor is more serious. And Molitor, because he’s a Hall of Famer, makes him a little nervous, he joked.
Dozier said his least favorite team to play is the Kansas City Royals. “I hate the Kansas City Royals,” he said, though he managed a smile.
Both players left their fans with an inspirational message.
“There’s going to be a lot of people that will tell you you can’t do it,” Dozier said. “That just adds fuel to the fire to prove that they’re wrong.”
Said Escobar: “Always stay humble. Always have faith and believe in God.”