Tireless Dozier makes team unity a priority

All-Star second baseman at the center of Twins' chemistry-building efforts

Tireless Dozier makes team unity a priority

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- During a round of batting practice early in camp, Eduardo Escobar puts his arm around double-play partner Brian Dozier behind the batting cage, calls him his brother and tries to say they make a good combination.

But Dozier interrupts the Venezuela native with a smile and tells the affable Escobar to enunciate the word better. Escobar gives it one more try but is quickly onto the next subject, seeing guest instructor Torii Hunter, whom he calls over for a group hug. Escobar calls Hunter their father, but as Hunter walks away, he jokingly calls the 40-year-old a "Grandpapa."

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Hunter, though, hears Escobar say it and calls him out, leading Escobar to claim that he was trying to call Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who is also behind the cage, grandpa and not Hunter. Dozier watches it all unfold with a big smile. He believes it's the kind of interaction that builds team chemistry and goes unnoticed by the common fan.

"Me and Torii talk about chemistry, and he told me it's like the flu -- just because you don't see it doesn't mean it's not there," Dozier said. "And that's what we try to do in here. We have a lot of fun, and I think that correlates to our play in the field."

Team chemistry matters to Dozier

Dozier, an All-Star for the first time in 2015, has developed into a clubhouse leader for the Twins, and it shows in his actions. He's usually among the first to arrive at the club's Spring Training complex every day and spends his mornings doing extra work with a group that includes third baseman Trevor Plouffe and Escobar, who are also his lockermates in the corner of the Twins' clubhouse.

"I get a 5:45 wake-up call from my wife, and I'm here by 6:15," Dozier said. "I have some breakfast and some coffee to get the day started. I like to take a few ground balls early and some cuts in the cages. Then I stretch at 9 a.m., and we have a meeting right after."
 

Morning workout with @briandozier and @eduardoescobar5. #MNTwinsST

A photo posted by Minnesota Twins (@twins) on

Dozier's routine after the team meeting varies depending on whether he's playing in a game that day, but the Twins usually stretch on the field around 9:40 a.m. for a 1:05 p.m. game. Infield fundamental drills are held at 9:55 a.m., with batting practice starting at 10:20.

Dozier said his target is to get between 50-60 at-bats during Spring Training. But it generally doesn't take long for him to get his timing at the plate, as he's been one of the club's best hitters in Spring Training in recent years, causing him to joke that he's a "Grapefruit League All-Star." He's a career .287/.355/.500 hitter in Spring Training, including .367/.436/.694 last year and .400/.455/.750 through seven games this year.

Dozier's solo shot to left field

"You want to slowly get back into it, because you have a whole month of games down here," Dozier said. "That's something I've learned over the years. You have to take it a little slow, get your feet under you and get your timing down before you get to Opening Day."

Dozier has also taken it upon himself to make Korean slugger Byung Ho Park feel more comfortable this spring as he makes the move to the United States to play in the Majors. Park joined Dozier and a few of their teammates to watch ABC's "The Bachelor" twice this offseason, including on Monday to watch the season finale.

And while Park remains perplexed by American reality television, he told Dozier he's been amazed by how tight Minnesota's clubhouse is compared to those of his teams during his 11 seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization.

"One of my biggest things, being one of the leaders of this team, is to make sure he's comfortable," Dozier said of Park. "He even told me this is one of the happiest teams he's been around in a long time. And that's what we want."

So for Dozier, building team chemistry doesn't end in the clubhouse, as evidenced by the time he spends with teammates away from the field, whether it's a viewing party of "The Bachelor," or going to an Elton John concert in nearby Estero, Fla., with Joe Mauer, Phil Hughes, Plouffe and their significant others.

But Dozier knows better than to make postgame plans without first consulting his wife, Renee, whom he met while the two were students at the University of Southern Mississippi.

"I've learned that I don't really plan anything without OKing something with my wife," Dozier said with a smile. "But I'll text her, 'Let's hit some golf balls this afternoon.' And we always get dinner. There's a lot of good restaurants around here."
 

Sir Elton.

A photo posted by briandozier (@briandozier) on

After dinner, Dozier unwinds and gets to bed much earlier than he does during the regular season, trying to be in bed by 10 p.m. instead of 1 a.m. -- but not before he catches up on some television with Renee.

"We get back and binge-watch some TV shows," Dozier said. "That's pretty much a day in the life of the Dozier household."

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