Eduardo Escobar was running late for a meeting early Thursday morning, but the Diamondbacks infielder couldn’t resist the chance to hop on Zoom and say a few words to one of his favorite former teammates.
“Lo Conner! Hey, my brother,” he screamed enthusiastically, using his favorite nickname for Brian Dozier. “I want to say congrats, man. Thank you so much, man. … You (taught) me (how to) play this game the right way, man. That’s why I’m still here.”
As Escobar trotted off to his meeting, Dozier, who announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on Thursday morning, took a walk down memory lane. Former Twins managers Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor joined the call, as well as Dozier’s former teammate Josh Willingham and former Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan.
Dozier, who was an all-star, Gold Glove winner and World Series champion, decided a couple of months ago that it was time to call it a career. After being picked up by the Twins in the eighth round of the 2009 draft, Dozier, 33, went on to a nine-year major league career. The first seven of those seasons were in Minnesota.
He was traded to the Dodgers in 2018, where he appeared in the World Series. The next year, he won a ring with the Nationals. Dozier signed a minor-league deal with the Padres before last season and wound up finishing his career with the Mets. Shortly after the Mets released him last season, the Blue Jays called. The day he was set to fly out, he decided he didn’t have it in him to go back.
“I turned it down, and then 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.”
After talking to a handful of teams this offseason, he decided he was ready to be at home full time with his family in Hattiesburg, Miss.
At least, for now.
Dozier said he fell out of love with the idea of playing the game, but his interest in managing sometime in the future is strong.
“I’ll always love baseball and I’ve always, especially the last two years, just really honing in on being a manager, being in the dugout and knowing what it takes to win and how to manage men and that kind of thing and manage a game. I think right now I might possibly pursue managing in the big leagues in the next couple of years,” Dozier said. “It’s something I’ve learned a lot from all the managers that I’ve played for.”
Two of those managers — Molitor and Gardenhire — had nothing but kind words to say to Dozier on Thursday. Molitor praised his selflessness and humility. Gardenhire couldn’t resist cracking a joke.
“One of the nicest people I’ve ever been around in my life and really just thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow as a player and of course after I left, he started hitting bombs all in the seats, 40 home runs. He waited (until) I got fired,” Gardenhire jabbed.
Dozier was one of just three Twins ever to hit more than 40 home runs in a season, along with Harmon Killebrew and Nelson Cruz. Dozier hit 42 homers in 2016, which was the second-highest single-season total for a second baseman in MLB history, matching Rogers Hornsby.
His 167 home runs for the Twins are the most by a second baseman in team history. He finished his career with 192 home runs, a .244 batting average, .325 on-base percentage and .441 slugging percentage.
And while he physically felt like he could keep playing, Dozier was more than ready for what comes next: full-time fatherhood.
“It has nothing to do with the ability to play or my body or anything. I feel great and feel like I definitely can play a lot more, but it was a decision,” he said. “I enjoy taking my kids to school every morning and that kind of thing, and here we are now and I’m good with it.”