NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)- Now that the calendar has flipped to the month of September, all Major League Baseball teams are cleared to up the numbers of players on their active rosters from 25 men to 40. This is typically good news for numerous players who have been biding their time dutifully in the minor leagues, waiting for their moment to take the big stage.
Players like former Stephen F. Austin star Hunter Dozier.
The rise of Dozier throughout the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system this season has been meteoric and earlier this morning the Denton, Texas, native learned from the defending World Series champion that he was to report to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City to join the squad on Friday night for the opener of the Royals’ three-game series with their longtime American League Central adversary the Detroit Tigers.
When he takes the field on Friday night, he will be the first Lumberjack baseball player to don the colors of an MLB squad since Steven Hill played nine games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. Additionally, Dozier is one of just two active Southland Conference players in the ranks of the MLB joining Wade Miley (Southeastern Louisiana) of the Baltimore Orioles.
“One of his best friends had been talking to myself and the rest of our coaching staff saying there was a rumor going around that Hunter was going to get called up,” said Stephen F. Austin head coach Johnny Cardenas. “From there, Michael Haynes got in touch with some of his contacts and learned it was true.
“It’s a special feeling to the Stephen F. Austin baseball program to have a player in the big leagues, but I’m more happy for the young man. He has worked hard and done everything the right way whether it was here or in the minors and now he’s getting his chance.”
It became clear after only 26 games with the Royals’ AA club - the Northwest Arkansas Travelers - that Dozier had made some major improvements to his game between the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. In that span with the Travelers, Dozier posted a slash line of .305/.400/.642 with eight doubles, eight long balls and 21 RBI.
That caused the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers to take notice and move Dozier from Arkansas to Nebraska on May 7. In his new home, Dozier’s stock began to rise by a substantial margin thanks largely to his prowess at the plate.
Currently, Dozier is tied for second in minor league baseball with 44 doubles and tied for third with 68 extra-base hits. As the eighth overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, Dozier was already being talked about as one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball and was put on display for all to see during the 2016 MLB All-Star Game festivities.
He was one of 25 players from the minor leagues to earn a roster spot on the United States team for the 2016 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Games in San Diego, Calif., and following his return to Omaha, Dozier continued to rake. In 103 games at the AAA level he smacked 115 hits - including 15 home runs - and went .294/.357/.506 at the plate.
While in Lumberjack colors, Dozier played shortstop but upon his insertion into a minor league lineup he made the switch to third base where he still plays the vast majority of the time. Dozier drew the curtain on a stellar baseball career at SFA by earning first-team All-America honors, and being named SLC Player and Hitter of the Year. A two-time first-team All-SLC selection, Dozier led the conference in batting average, slugging percentage, doubles, home runs and total bases in 2013, and finished the regular season ranked among the nation’s top five in each category.
In only three seasons with the ‘Jacks, Dozier left Nacogdoches as the school’s all-time leader in hits and doubles. He also owns the single-season record for multi-hit games and doubles.
As well as his All-America honors, Dozier became the first Lumberjack in program history to be named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award. He was also a national finalist for both the Brooks Wallace Award (nation’s top shortstop), and semifinalist for the Dick Howser Award (top player).
As it stands today, Dozier joins a Kansas City club that sits 7.5 games out of the AL Central lead and three games back in the wild card standings. First pitch between the Royals and Tigers is set for 7:15 p.m.