Shortstop, No. 8 overall selection will begin pro career at Idaho Falls
KANSAS CITY -- Hunter Dozier, the Royals' first-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft, had always dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Now, he's a few steps closer after being selected eighth overall last Thursday and signing with the club on Monday afternoon for $2.2 million.
"I'm happy to go that high and super excited to be here," Dozier said.
Dozier signed his bonus for less than his slotted $3,137,800. The Royals will likely use the extra money to try to sign their 34th pick, Sean Manaea, who is slotted for $1,623,000. Manaea, a lefty from Indiana State, dropped from first-round consideration for most teams because of a hip ailment that will require surgery.
With his parents, Kelly and Kelly, watching, Dozier received his No. 1 jersey before heading out to batting practice with the team prior to Monday's series opener against the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
"You always want to see your kid's dreams come true, and you know as a parent it's not always going to happen," his father said. "You just keep telling them to keep working hard, keep working, keep doing everything right and good things will happen. When you see it actually happen, it is hard to explain."
Assistant general manager for scouting and player development J.J. Picollo said Dozier will head to Arizona on Tuesday morning for team training camp and then will start playing for Rookie Advanced Idaho Falls.
Dozier is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound shortstop from Stephen F. Austin University. He batted .396 with 17 home runs and 52 RBIs this season. Dozier led the Southland Conference in batting average, slugging percentage, doubles and home runs.
Dozier is the first Lumberjack player to be selected in the first round and the highest ever pick for the Southland Conference. He was named the Southland Conference Player and Hitter of the Year.
The Doziers gathered with their extended family to watch the Draft on Thursday night and when his name was announced eighth overall, his mother said you could only describe it as a roar.
"There was so much emotion, the tears," she said. "We've never been a part of something so amazing. There wasn't a dry eye in the house."
Mitch Thompson, the Royals' South Texas scout, was the first to really pay attention to Dozier, a Nacagdoches, Texas native.
"The physical tools and the physical body just jump off the field at you, to start with. You watch him play and watch him handle himself on a daily basis swinging the bat is always impressive," Thompson said. "He moves, he runs, he throws, he does a lot of neat things."
When Thompson's positive reviews made it to Kansas City, the club started further research and director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg said everyone had the same reaction.
"Everybody fell in love with him," Goldberg said. "They fell in love with the way that he played, his passion for the game, his makeup, the way he treats his teammates. We just fell in love with him."
Before the Draft, Dozier and his father met with the Royals and really hit it off. Both parents compared the feeling to the confidence they had leaving him at a good college like Stephen F. Austin.
"It was actually like they were asking us to please stay, but not just my family, it was everyone who was there," Dozier's dad said. "They just opened their arms and I was very impressed. After we left here I said, 'Please, please, I want Kansas City to pick him.'"
The feeling was mutual.
"When Hunter and his father, Kelly, came in for the workout, I had the opportunity to sit down with them and talk to them about his vision and how he felt he had progressed as a player and his vision for his career, and it was a very, very easy sell," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "He was the kind of player that grabbed us, took a hold of us and he would have been somebody that if we weren't able to select, it would have been very disappointing."
Dozier grew up watching the Rangers and has tried to model his game after Michael Young, because of the way he mixes talent on the field and integrity off of it.
"Once you start to see deeper into the kid, he's All-American in every way, shape or form," Thompson said. "Not only are you getting the baseball player that has the tools, but you get the person that you want to be around on a daily basis. Hard worker, diligent, great teammate. What a great kid."
Dozier also played quarterback during high school and he says that's where he learned how to be a leader. He learned how to work hard from his parents. His father is a pilot for American Airlines and his mother is a homemaker.
"I got to take a deep breath once they called my name, and now I'm just looking forward to heading up to Arizona," Dozier said.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com.