MINNEAPOLIS -- Here's an easy indication of how much Brian Dozier has meant to the Twins' organization: When the slugger announced his retirement on Thursday, friendly faces from club history poured into his Zoom press conference, from managers Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor to former general manager Terry Ryan to teammates Josh Willingham and Eduardo Escobar -- who was missing the start of a team meeting at the D-backs' Spring Training complex.
Dozier's home run power launched him to rare heights among second basemen, while his longevity, community service and leadership made him a fan favorite in his adopted home of Minnesota. Now, his journey as a big league ballplayer is at an end.
Thursday morning, Dozier officially ended a nine-year career, of which seven were spent with Minnesota, the organization that drafted him in 2009. He retires with the most homers as a second baseman in club history and tied with Rogers Hornsby for the second-highest single-season home run total by a second baseman in MLB history.
"I've gotten to see all these organizations throughout my career, but it was a blessing playing for Minnesota, who takes it above and beyond, starting for Terry Ryan and those guys," Dozier said. "You carry yourself the right way, not only on the field, but off the field. It's not something they suggest. It's something they demanded. That carried over pretty well. I always took a lot of pride in trying to do things the right way."
Though he's only 33 years old and still feeling physically fine to play, Dozier said he "fell out of love" with playing the game and felt it was time to move on, especially after he had the chance to spend more time with his family at home during the pandemic. He revealed that he actually had an offer from the Blue Jays following his release from the Mets last August, but he turned it down and decided to retire after considering his options during the offseason.
"I told my wife, I said, 'This COVID thing is the worst thing that ever happened to us because I got to be at home, wake my daughter up every single morning and take her to school,'" Dozier said. "I said, 'I love doing this.' There's nothing in baseball that's ever given me that happiness or joy that I was receiving."
He'll spend some time at home in Hattiesburg, Miss., where his family is finishing up with the construction of a house. He doesn't think he's totally done with the game, though, and noted that he hopes to pursue a managerial career in the coming years.
The Mississippi native was a fixture atop the lineup and at second base through a tough era of Twins baseball marked by only one playoff appearance in 2017. He combined a dazzling personality with consistent power that pushed him to 20 or more homers in five consecutive seasons with the Twins from 2014-18.
Once Dozier left Minnesota in a swap at the 2018 Trade Deadline, he got the opportunity to live out his World Series dream as part of the '18 Dodgers that won the National League pennant and the '19 Nationals that finally brought him a championship.
"I think one of the biggest things was winning a World Series," Dozier said. "I'm not saying just winning it -- but just how, with the Nationals, how we were the worst team in baseball at the end of May and we flipped the page. The things we did -- we were the oldest team in baseball, and to come back and upset the Astros, that's kind of something as a more recent memory throughout the career that jumps off the page."
He spent 2020 with the Padres and Mets, concluding a career in which he hit .244/.325/.441 with 192 homers, including 167 with the Twins, ranking him ninth in club history. He's one of two players in Twins history to hit 20 homers and 20 doubles in a season as a second baseman -- and did so in four straight years from 2014-17. He made his only All-Star appearance in 2015 and won a Gold Glove Award in '17.
Dozier made just as large of a mark off the field as he did on it. He was noted for his clubhouse leadership and presence, with his highly popularized friendship with infield-mate Eduardo Escobar bringing antics and smiles on an off the field. He won the 2016-17 Bob Allison Awards for Twins leadership, and his charitable work earned him the 2014 Heart & Hustle Award from the MLB Players Association and the '15 Carl R. Pohlad Award for Twins outstanding community service.
"Thank you so much, man," Escobar said. "You’re the best. I love you. You know how much I respect you, man. You taught me how to play the right way in this game, man. That’s why I’m still here. You’re the best, man."
Dozier was an eighth-round selection out of Southern Mississippi in 2009 and shifted from shortstop to second base, where he played throughout his big league career. Following an 84-game debut in '12, he was the club's Opening Day starter at second base in '13 and showed his pop with 18 homers, 33 doubles and 14 stolen bases, which moved him to the top of the lineup for years to come.
Though his All-Star appearance was in 2015, his statistically best season came in '16, when he posted 5.8 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs, and hit 42 homers, making him one of three Twins to eclipse the 40-homer mark in a season, along with Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and Nelson Cruz.
"I couldn't be more proud of the things you accomplished and provided for the Twins organization," said Ryan, who drafted Dozier. "You went on to win a World Series. You had an outstanding career. You were a great person involved in the Twins organization and I was just happy to be a small part of it."
Despite having all that power, Dozier's Twins career didn't last long enough for him to experience the thrills of the "Bomba Squad" in 2019 -- but he's had a tremendous time watching his former teammates from afar, and he'll continue to cheer them on from retirement.
"Toward the end of my Twins career, before I got traded, they were up and coming," Dozier said. "You know they had talent. You know they were going to be good players. It’s a joy to see, for me. And they’re going to continue to even get better, which is scary. So I'll be watching a lot of the games, keeping up with them. I still talk to a lot of those guys. It really is a joy for me just to sit back and watch them."