HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - When he's not making the highlight reels during the major league baseball season, Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and his wife, Renee, call Hattiesburg home.
Now, the former University of Southern Mississippi standout has his very own key to the city that embraced him during his days as a Golden Eagle.
Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker honored Dozier Thursday during a ceremony at City Hall, presenting him with a proclamation and "lifetime key to the City of Hattiesburg."
"Feel free to go through City Hall and see what door it fits," Barker said.
With his wife by his side and his mother, Jan, in the audience, Dozier said Hattiesburg fit him like a broken-in infielder's glove from the time he stepped on campus in 2006.
"We were talking about this at lunch (Thursday), that (my mom) was telling her friends, all through my college career, that she could never get her baby back home because I loved Hattiesburg so much," Dozier said. "And sure enough, I met my wife here at Southern Miss, and shortly after, we made Hattiesburg our home.
"It's the place we want to raise our kids and spend the rest of our lives here…This is a great honor and I'm very much appreciative."
Jan Dozier, who drove down from Fulton for the ceremony, said Thursday merely confirmed what she always had known about her son.
"It's just wonderful," she said. "It means a lot to a mother to have somebody else think their son is special."
Barker said the honor was deserved for not only what Dozier had done on the field during career at USM and in professional baseball, but how he's lived his life off the field.
"We're forever hearing and reading headlines about the bad things that pro athletes do, scandals and for bad things," Barker said. "But when Brian Dozier's name comes up in a headline, you know it's always going to be for something good. He conducts himself in the right and makes us proud, continually."
The proclamation listed many of Dozier's accomplishments as a baseball player, including:
During his USM career (2006-09), Dozier hit .355, with 55 doubles, seven triples and 17 home runs, driving in 152 runs
In 2009, Dozier was part of what Barker called “the greatest sporting accomplishment in our university’s history,” the Golden Eagles’ trip to the College World Series
In 2009, Dozier was drafted by the Twins in the eighth round of Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft, and in 2011, was named Minnesota’s “Minor League Player of the Year
In 2012, Dozier was called up to the Twins in May, and smacked the first of his 151 home runs on May 13, 2012, against the Toronto Blue Jays
In 2014, he became the first Twin second baseman and only the 13th in major-league history to hit at least 20 home runs and steal at least 20 bases in the same season
In 2015, Dozier was selected to the American League All-Star team, and as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, hit a home run, becoming just the 16th player to hit a home run in his first at-bat in an All-Star game
In 2016, Dozier became the first American League second baseman to reach the 40-home run plateau, setting an AL record with 42 home runs during that season
This season, Dozier won his first Gold Glove, and after playing for teams with losing records, he helped the Twins earn a wild card appearance in the AL playoffs, cracking a home run to open the game against the New York Yankees
"You fall back in love with the game," Dozier said. "Not that I ever fell out of love with the game, but you want to win so much, so this past year was rejuvenating."
Dozier said he was grateful for the guidance and support he had received during his college days, acknowledging the former Golden Eagle teammates, coaches and administrators on hand, including USM baseball coach Scott Berry, who he called "like another father figure to me."
"You know how strong in our faith we are, and one of my favorite passages is, 'Iron sharpens iron, and so does one man sharpen another,'" Dozier said. "And everybody in this room, to be able to do this today, it's all because of everybody in here, how much they sharpened things about my life, especially during my college career, and I thank you."
Dozier said while Thursday was special, the moment likely would resonate more deeply down the years.
"You know, it's one of those things, that maybe when you're all done _ and I have plenty more years left in me _ you can look back at times like this and it might be brought to light more," Dozier said. "Knowing that you have a key to the city, and that the whole City of Hattiesburg is kind of behind you, is really cool.
"Seeing a lot of familiar faces that I haven't seen in years, since being in college, who have helped me along the way, and not just people in the baseball realm, and then making Hattiesburg my home, it all just kind of blends together."