FORT MYERS, Fla.– Whenever a popular Twins player — from Brad Radke, Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, through the M & M boys — has a retirement news conference, the organization turns out in force.
The Zoom version of that occurred Thursday when Brian Dozier, 33, announced his retirement after nine seasons, including seven with the Twins. Dozier wore a perpetual grin on his face as Ron Gardenhire, Paul Molitor, Eduardo Escobar, Terry Ryan, Josh Willingham and even clubhouse major-domo Rod McCormick appeared on screen to wish No. 2 a happy retirement.
"You know how much I respect you, man," said Escobar, who got out of a Diamondbacks team meeting to congratulate Dozier. "You [taught] me [how to] play this game the right way, man. That's why I'm still here."
Escobar was the teammate who experienced good times and endured bad times with Dozier's help. Gardenhire was the manager who told Dozier to stop taking ground balls at shortstop after his rookie season when the Twins made him their full-time second baseman. Molitor was the manager who benefited when Dozier unlocked his power, blasting 42 home runs in 2016 — the only Twin other than Harmon Killebrew and Nelson Cruz to reach 40 in a season.
"In addition to that performance, it was just how you took care of your teammates and made everybody better," Molitor said. "You were never selfish about anything that you do."
Of the 192 home runs Dozier hit in his career, 167 came as a second baseman for the Twins, a club record. He hit 127 home runs from 2014-17, sixth most in the American League.
He was traded to the Dodgers in July of 2018, playing in 47 games. In 2019, he signed as a free agent with the Nationals, who shook off a terrible start to win the World Series, but he only hit .238 during the season and went 0-for-6 in the postseason. After a brief stint in the Padres organization, Dozier signed with the Mets in July of 2020 but only played in seven games before being released a month later, and he began to realize his time might be up. After thinking about retiring during the offseason, he made it official Thursday.
"I was blessed, so blessed to be able to play for such good managers and general managers throughout my career and some people I respect forever and call them friends forever," Dozier said. "I played for some great organizations and so I appreciate all of you."
Gardenhire, of course, flashed his trademark humor while saluting Dozier.
"One of the nicest people I've ever been around in my life and really just thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow as a player," Gardenhire said, "and of course, after I left, he started hitting bombs all in the seats."