To celebrate anniversary, Doziers help others

Twins second baseman and his wife will head to Nicaragua on mission trip

To celebrate anniversary, Doziers help others

MINNEAPOLIS -- With their one-year wedding anniversary coming up on Jan. 4, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and his wife, Renee, wanted to plan a memorable trip to celebrate the occasion.

But they also wanted to fit in a mission trip to Nicaragua after spending a week there last offseason through a Georgia-based group called Amigos for Christ. So when it came time to plan their offseason, the couple realized it would mean much more to them if they spent their anniversary helping others in Nicaragua instead of on a relaxing vacation.

"We were planning on doing something for our anniversary, but we wanted to go to Nicaragua, so we just said, 'Why not? Let's go.'" Dozier said. "She was up for it, and I was up for it, so we went for it."

Dozier first heard of Amigos for Christ from his wife's cousin who had been volunteering her time to go on mission trips in Nicaragua over the last several years. The organization is based in Buford, Ga., about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta, and has been making mission trips to Nicaragua since 1999.

Dozier and Renee, both devout Christians, wanted to do their part and spent a full week in Nicaragua last November digging ditches to help create a clean-water system in a small village. It was exhausting work, as the volunteers used shovels and pickaxes to dig a hole four-feet deep and 1,000-feet long while working every day from roughly 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

But Dozier said it was all worth it, as it brought more than just smiles to the locals: It created much-needed drinking water for those in the village.

"It was by far the best experience of my life," Dozier said. "So I wanted to make it a yearly thing, if possible. It just makes you feel good when you leave, and that's what it's all about."

Dozier also went through the experience last year without any special treatment or fanfare from Amigos for Christ, as he never even indicated he was a Major Leaguer when he signed up to volunteer. He wanted to be treated just like any missionary, but a few of the younger volunteers quickly recognized Dozier after he just finished his first full season as Minnesota's everyday second baseman in 2013.

"It didn't take very long for them to start talking baseball and they realized I was on their fantasy baseball team and all that stuff," Dozier said with a laugh. "But we remain good friends with all those guys, and they actually already went, but my wife and I couldn't go to meet up with them again."

Unlike last year, Dozier is going to Nicaragua later in the offseason with a different group and won't be going as long, as he'll be spending five days in Nicaragua starting on Jan. 3. But he said he'll be doing similar work to his last trip, as he's scheduled to help create an irrigation system in another small village in Nicaragua.

Dozier, though, said he'll bring more Twins gear this time around, as baseball remains highly popular in Nicaragua, and the volunteers from Amigos for Christ play baseball with the locals at least once a week. There have been several notable Major Leaguers from Nicaragua throughout the years, including Dennis Martinez, Vicente Padilla and Everth Cabrera.

"Baseball is really big there and is their No. 1 sport," Dozier said. "So the last day of every week they play a baseball game with the locals. So it's kind of a part of Amigos for Christ. So I'm going to bring down some Twins stuff with me. Some bats, some gloves, some balls and some Twins attire."

While Dozier joining those pickup games is a bit unfair, he'll be heading to Nicaragua already having started baseball activities. Dozier, who makes his home in Hattiesburg, Miss., during the offseason, started working out again a few weeks after the season ended and will start baseball activities later this month.

Dozier will take a short break from baseball during his trip to Nicaragua, as he'll be working out with a shovel and a pickax instead of in the gym. After that, Dozier will start fully gearing up for his third season as the club's second baseman.

"I feel like each year I push it back a week because I know my body more and more," Dozier said of his offseason routine. "I'll start doing baseball activities right before Nicaragua and then hit it hard when I get back."

It'll be a busy January for Dozier after his trip to Nicaragua, as he's scheduled to attend the club's annual Winter Caravan from Jan. 19-22 before attending the annual Diamond Awards on Jan. 22, where he'll receive the Jim Kaat Award for Twins Defensive Player of the Year.

After that, it's the annual TwinsFest from Jan. 23-25 at Target Field, which is a clear sign Spring Training is right around the corner with pitchers and catchers set to report on Feb. 22 in Fort Myers, Fla.

Dozier has been following the Twins' moves closely this offseason, and he was thrilled to hear they signed outfielder Torii Hunter and right-hander Ervin Santana. But the rest of the division has also been making moves, as the White Sox added several key pieces, while the Royals, Tigers and Indians all remain solid clubs.

So Dozier is excited to see what next year brings, and he wants to build on a season that saw him hit .242/.345/.416 with 23 homers and 21 stolen bases as the club's leadoff hitter.

"I keep up with all the hearsay out there and followed the Winter Meetings," Dozier said. "I feel like our division is one of the best now. We've seen other teams add some pitching and offense to what they've already been doing. So it's going to be interesting to see. To be order to win the Central, we're going to have to go up against teams that made some moves. The division is getting better, so it's gonna be fun to see how we do."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.