A turning point, as described by Minnesota Twins starting second baseman Brian Dozier, came when he recognized he was shortchanging his baseball teammates at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Brian was having a good season on the playing field his senior year at Southern Mississippi. At 30 games into the season he shattered his collarbone trying to make a play at shortstop. It required surgery. The injury would require 12 weeks of rehabilitation which would take him up to the College World Series. The team was an average team; but late in the season, they went on a miracle run.
“I was a leader on this team,” shares Brian, “but I was always rehabbing and not focusing on leading the team when it needed me most. To be honest, I felt Christ was telling me I was still a part of the team, and they still see me as their leader rather than someone that is hurt.” Brian still did his rehab, but he stepped up his leadership role to cheer on his teammates and give the team his support. It was a lesson of humility as Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11, also Matthew 23:12) Also, the Bible says Christ “did not come to be serve, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28, also Mark 10:45) Brian calls this experience a turning point for him as a leader and as a Christian.
Southern Mississippi went on a magical run, beating #1 Georgia Tech and then #2 Florida that shot them into the College World Series. As luck would have it, the 12 week rehabbing concluded allowing Brian to take part in the College World Series. “We lost to Texas in the first game,” Brian states, “and lost to North Carolina in the second, but the magical run is something I will never forget.”
Learning biblical lessons was nothing new to Brian Dozier who grew up in the small town of Fulton, Mississippi, to Mike and Jan Dozier. Along with his parents and his older siblings, Leigh Anne and Clay, the Doziers were and still are active participants in their local church, Fulton Church of Christ. Another member of the family who was very influential in Brian’s spiritual growth was his grandmother, Lynette Dozier, better known as MeMaw.
“Looking back, it is truly a blessing growing up in a Christian home,” comments Brian. “I remember my parents reading children’s books about the stories of Jesus and other Bible stories all through my early childhood. I enjoy going home and talking with MeMaw, even now at 97 years old, about her Christian faith.”
A Special Night
Brian was always under the impression you always go to church. You go Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night. He remembers a specific Wednesday night Bible study he and his mother attended when he was 11 years old. This night took on special significance. “That night after leaving the Bible study,” states Brian, “it finally hit me as we got back into the car. Something just came over me thinking I can’t assume I was saved. I had to make the decision to accept Christ into my life.” He adds, “I wanted to follow Christ the rest of my life. I believed up to then, but that night I verbally said to mom I wanted to be saved right here and now.”
There were tears shed, but they were tears of joy. Brian and his mother went back into the church, and he was baptized. He said, “It was the best decision I made in my life.” For Brian, it has been a wonderful journey of faith ever since.
A Rookie Wake Up Call
Playing baseball is a dream come true, and something Brian, a 2015 American League All-Star, loves doing. But he found out quickly it was not who he was. It all changed for him in his rookie season in 2012.
“I spent four months in the major leagues, and then I was sent down to Triple A because I was struggling,” explains Brian. “During that time, I came across a verse which is now my favorite, 1st Corinthians 10:31, which says, ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’ I came to realize I am not here to play baseball, but it is a platform that I have. I am here to influence and impact other people’s lives through Christ just by playing the game of baseball.”
Former Twins teammate, Blaine Boyer of the Milwaukee Brewers, shares, “Brian is a convicted individual man who loves the Kingdom, and he wants to glorify the Kingdom in all that he does. He competes like no other, but he also understands the platform here in the big leagues to glorify the Lord.”
Brian attended hometown high school, Itawamba Agriculture High School in Fulton, Mississippi, (approximately 3800 population) where he played on varsity in baseball (4), football (3), golf (2), and basketball (1). He was a two-time All-Stater in baseball and “Player of the Year” in north Mississippi in 2009. Brian went on to play baseball at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg on scholarship, and he finished with a career .355 batting average. He was drafted in 2009 by the Twins in the eighth round.
Meeting Someone Special
“Southern Miss” was special in another way. It was where Brian met his wife, Renée, who was from New Orleans. Renée was a soccer player, and it is normal for the athletes at Southern Miss to go to events together. Brian states, “Through a friend of a friend who was dating one of her friends, we had an opportunity to meet. We basically dated as friends my junior year; but when I came back my senior year, I got to know her better and our relationship became serious.” He adds, “Renée is an amazing woman in Christ which I love more than anything. She is involved in several organizations to help make “disciples” which drives me to be a better person.”
Brian, the Twins 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, finished his degree in marketing after his first minor league season in 2009, having turned down the Twins invitation to go to Instruction League in the fall. He had promised his parents he would get his degree. Renée has a degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish. They make their off-season home in Hattiesburg.
Time for Missions
A second Scripture favorite is when Jesus sought out Peter and Andrew to become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Just before Brian and Renée were married, they went on a mission trip to Central America. Renée had gone before, but they wanted to share this experience together. They have gone on others since then. Brian shares, “We get caught up in America where everything is wonderful living in a great country, but the struggles people living outside of the United States have is often extreme. God calls us to go out to make “disciples” as shared in Matthew 28:19. We can do that here in the United States, but why not take it a step further and go outside of the United States as well. It is something that is dear to our hearts and we like to do.”
One of the organizations the Doziers work through is “Amigos for Christ.” It is based out of Atlanta, but the local
headquarters is Chinandega, Nicaragua. They have built clean water systems in poor villages, and last year they built a school. “It is all about the chance to interact with people daily,” states Brian, “and they can see Christ living in each one of us.”
Twins teammate and starting pitcher, Kyle Gibson, comments: “Brian is a solid guy on and off the field. He is one I can have solid discussions with regarding following Christ and his teachings, and Brian helps keep us accountable in our faith. Brian is a good leader, a godly leader; and he does things the right way.”
Brian, the Twins Heart and Hustle Award winner the last 2 years, has been involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) since his youth. He takes the time to share his faith at FCA events at spring training and various times in Minneapolis. He shares, “I am very open about my faith. There are those who are timid or shy regarding their faith, but I overcame that in 2012. I’ll talk to anyone about my faith in Jesus.”
A Meaningful Conference
Brian and Renée had an opportunity to attend the Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) conference this past off-season. It was a chance for 150 pro baseball players and their wives or significant others to pray together, discuss parenting and financing, and the various struggles they deal with daily in their lives. There were inspirational Christian music and Christian speakers. “It has just impacted my life in such a way that Renée and I will make it an annual event,” commented Brian. “It was the best spiritual event we have ever attended in our lives.”
“God tells us not to be on the fence or lukewarm about our faith,” states Brian. “If you have a strong faith in Christ, you build a personal relationship with Him by digging into His Word to learn more what can help you in your day-to-day life.” He adds, “And you pray without ceasing. I am in conversation with my Lord constantly, any time the Spirit moves me, even on the playing field or driving my car. The Lord is my best friend, and I talk to Him as my best friend.”
By Bruce A. Darnall, Lake Mills, Wisconsin Photos provided by the Minnesota Twins