Photo courtesy Flickr/Keith Allison
Mississippi is full of small towns with major talent. That talent could be musical, literary or athletic in nature.
Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier is one of those talents. The baseball star hails from Fulton, Miss., which has a population of less than 4,000 people. That didn't stop him from becoming a star at Itawamba Agricultural High School, where Dozier was a four-year starter in baseball. He was named All-State twice and was a four-time All-Area and All-Division selection. Dozier received the title of Player of the Year in north Mississippi and was a Dandy Dozen as well. The versatile athlete also lettered in football, golf and basketball and was nominated for the Wendy's High School Heisman award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy.
After a stellar high-school career, Dozier signed with the University of Southern Mississippi to play baseball. His freshman season in 2006, he became a starter and earned Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors. He batted .381, which was second on the team and fourth best in Conference USA, and had eight doubles, four triples, three home runs and 39 RBI. Dozier made the C-USA All-Freshman team and was named to the NCAA All-Tuscaloosa Regional Team.
Dozier once again had a successful sophomore season and was named to the NCAA All-Oxford Regional team. He hit .339, which was second on the team.
Another great season his junior year kept the shortstop's superstar track going. Dozier even ended up being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the seventh round of the MLB Draft before deciding to return to USM for his senior season.
Dozier was on his way to another stellar season when injury struck just 35 games in. The small-town star injured his shoulder when he dived to make a play. But the 2009 USM team rallied and snuck their fourth regional in four years. The team upset Georgia Institute of Technology to make a Super Regional. Those Golden Eagles swept the Florida Gators in the Super Regional to reach the College World Series.
Dozier pinch hit against the Texas Longhorns in the College World Series. He drew a walk as the Golden Eagles lost. USM was out of the CWS after losing their next game.
The Minnesota Twins selected Dozier in the eighth round with the 252nd overall pick in the 2009 draft. Dozier spent that year in rookie ball but returned to USM after the season to finish his degree in sports marketing, receiving his bachelor's degree in 2009.
Minnesota invited Dozier to spring camp in 2011 but sent him back down to the minors. He made the most of this opportunity, and he received the title of Twins Minor League Player of the Year. It was in the 2012 season that Dozier finally became a full-time major-league player. He played in 84 games and batted .234 with 11 doubles, one triple and six home runs with 33 RBI.
Dozier put up solid numbers again in the 2013 season. He hit .244 with 33 doubles, four triples and 18 home runs with 66 RBI.
The 2014 season was a break-out one for him. He bat .242 with 33 doubles, one triple and 23 home runs with 71 RBI. He missed the All-Star Game but took part in the 2014 Home Run Derby. Dozier hit just two home runs, as he was out of the tournament after the first round.
This year, he has been putting together another sensational season. Through 84 games, he is batting .260 with 26 doubles, three triples and 18 home runs with 45 RBI.
Dozier was not voted to the All-Star Game or selected by the players or manager, but he still does have a chance to make the game. The Twins star is one of five American League players fans can vote for the final spot on the roster. Fans can go to mlb.com to vote for him. The deadline is 3 p.m. Central Standard Time, and the 2015 All-Star game is Tuesday, July 14, is on Fox at 6 p.m.