There’s a fable I’m sure mo (The original article appeared in The Courier during the 2017 seasonand has been mildly modified to be current)
This is a re-write from more than two years ago about Brian Dozier, then the Minnesota Twins’ All-Star second baseman from Fulton, but now a member of the World Champion Washington Nationals. I’m reflecting on the Brian Dozier I, and many others, know. As a means of full disclosure, it should be pointed out that my grandkids and he and his siblings share a set of great great grandparents and his mother and daddy live just over the hollow (holler). Facetiously, it’s an upscale community called ‘The Timbers’ which joins my property at the edge of Fulton’s eastern city limits. In my flashback memories sitting at my breakfast table, it’s about 7:45 A.M. I see through my kitchen window a black SUV glide by. Moments later it darts back now transporting my younger grandson, Mat Cox, to IAHS where he’s a freshman and B. D. is a junior. B. D. is what we call Brian. He had his driver’s license. Mat was too young to get his. Both were quality athletes. And just because their grandmothers happened to be cousins did not diminish their friendship. Sometimes as the vehicle zipped through our drive, my clock would confirm that it was close to time for the bell to ring and neither youngster needed to be late. I remember a lot more about the young professional. He probably cut his teeth on a baseball glove. His older brother, Clay, was also a good high school and collegiate player. They have a sister, LeeAnn, who was a cheerleader. Some might say it’s a genetic thing from their mother’s (Jan) side of the family. It more likely is the result of an athletic work ethic instilled at the earliest age. Their dad, Mike, a CPA, coached his youngsters in a very aggressive schedule of travel baseball. I used to wonder how the family made ends meet with expenses it incurred traveling to out-of-town game destinations. Maybe it was because a whole lot of tax work could be done in the winter months before spring baseball. It is reported that Brian’s salary this year exceeds $9 million. Sports are important in a close-knit community like Fulton. Everybody has somebody on the team. Winning is shared community spirit. Losing is a tear-jerking collaboration. With BD losing was seldom. He was an encouragement to Mat who got to ride his ‘glory train’ via, IAHS, American Legion, Meridian Community College and Southeastern Louisiana. BD went straight to the University of Southern Mississippi. Now, Mat is in Birmingham and dad to two future all-stars of his own and still a big BD cheerleader. They stayed in contact via texting until BD’s major league obligations absorbed time. Mat’s sports involvement is now relegated to coaching his and neighbors’ youngsters, but he still keeps up with former teammates and opponents he encountered through Dizzy Dean, American Legion, community college and D-1 play. Several are also playing professionally. BD’s late grandmother, Lynette, went to church with me. That’s where you could have seen BD and his siblings as ‘looked up to’ youngsters. Brian and Mat teamed up once to teach a kids’ Bible Class on Sunday mornings. BD, Clay and Mat, descendants of the historic Itawamba County Reed Family which has produced many notables, also can claim another cousin, Brian Reed, who probably still holds the record for most SEC saves as a member of the University of Alabama baseball program more than a decade ago. He followed his dream via the Toronto Blue Jays farm system and finally hung up his spikes moving back to Monroe County. Another cousin, Katie Taylor, a graduate of Tupelo High School, is a soccer student athlete at a Mississippi college. Yet another cousin, Bronson Smith, played and now coaches at Harding University in Searcy, AR. Others a bit older were good athletes and coaches, too. Curves? BD learned how to step into them and has smashed more than 20 home runs per season for several years. He sat a record one year for the twins with 32. At Southern he missed his team’s College World Series run in Omaha because of a serious shoulder injury. He overcame that and was drafted by the Twins. His first call up to the ‘Bigs’ as a shortstop didn’t go well as he made uncharacteristic playing and mental errors. He was sent down to the minors. He catapulted back as a second baseman. When he was selected as a participant in the home run derby, his brother, Clay, got to throw to him. During the hullabaloo about voting the next time, BD handled it in the humble manner we expected. When he came to bat, he simply stepped into a curve ball and hit it ‘outta’ here when it counted. In researching Brian via ‘Google’ I ran across a YouTube episode that was about him but not with him. The broadcaster was asking a member of the Nationals’ Public Relations team about Brian’s charitable involvements. When asked about the report that he was donating $5,000 per playoff win to charity, the lady PR executive exclaimed, “Wow! Is he really doing that?” Yep, that’s BD. Crossroads Ranch located north of Fulton and a school in Haiti are beneficiaries of the player’s generosity. My son was listening to a radio sports program before Game 7 where analysts were evaluating the Nationals’ catching dilemma. Their Number One catcher was recovering from an injury. The Back Up had been involved in a playing incident and his status was in jeopardy. Who would be the next in line since no other catcher was listed on the roster? Who else? BD of course. He was designated as the “Emergency Catcher” if needed. It was a position he had not played since high school. No one who knows BD was surprised. He can be counted on when needed. Last year Dozier got to the World Series as a Los Angeles Dodger, but they lost. He gets a Championship Ring this time. Fulton is home to many fine folk and other professional athletes. Ally McDonald, a rising star on the Ladies Professional Golf Tour, and Chad Ramey, an impressive member of the PGA group, all grew up in households within the proverbial ‘stone’s throw’ of the other. I was spurred me to revisit this column this morning (the day after the Nats won) when I encountered LeeAnn Dozier Stockton at the post office. In accepting congratulations, you could tell she was beaming with pride for her youngest sibling. We all are.
If you would like to contact Bill Miles you can email him at email@example.com