Baseball: The wait begins

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Stephen F. Austin University
Stephen F. Austin shortstop and Denton High product Hunter Dozier has a good chance of going either late in the first round or early in the second round of tonight’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Dozier could make history as highest-drafted DISD product

In a city with a rich baseball heritage, it’s difficult to make history. The names of those who have added to Denton’s diamond folklore are well known to those who have been around long enough to remember them.

Today, there’s a strong chance history will be made.

At 6 p.m. in Secaucus, N.J., baseball’s 2013 First-Year Player Draft will begin, with the Houston Astros making the first pick.

Among those waiting to be drafted will be Stephen F. Austin junior shortstop Hunter Dozier. Dozier, a former Denton Bronco, could become the highest-drafted Denton ISD product in the town’s fabled history.

The first two rounds of the draft will take place today, with rounds three through 10 to follow on Friday and rounds 11 through 40 on Saturday.

According to different mock drafts, the Denton alum has a strong chance of being drafted late in the first round or early in the second round.

“It’s just kind of crazy right now,” Dozier said. “Talking back and forth with my adviser and everything, it’s really hectic right now, but it’s exciting. It’s a good hectic.”

Dozier said he has worked out for Kansas City, Tampa Bay, the Rangers and San Diego. ESPN’s Keith Law released a mock draft Monday and had Dozier going to Tampa Bay at No. 29. The Rangers have the ensuing pick.

Along with Dozier, former Guyer standout and current Grayson College pitcher Jacob Rhame and Krum senior Ty Damron also have a chance to be selected this weekend.

Former Ryan pitchers Javy Guerra and Curtis Peterson are believed to be the current highest draft picks, both in the fourth round.

Guerra was drafted in 2004 by the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Peterson was selected by the Florida Marlins in 2008.

Dozier is a finalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, which is awarded by the National Collegiate Baseball Association to the top player in college baseball. He is also a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Award, an honor that goes to the nation’s top shortstop.

Dozier (6-4, 220 pounds) started 55 games for SFA this season and batted .396 with 17 home runs and 52 RBIs, just three of his many team-leading stats.

As of Thursday, Dozier was tied for fifth in Division I in home runs and doubles (25).

In one of the Lumberjacks’ two losses in the Southland Conference tournament, Dozier went 1-for-3 against Oral Roberts pitcher Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez is slotted to be drafted No. 15 overall, according to Law.

School officials said about 50 to 60 scouts were in attendance to see the two highly touted prospects in a 9 a.m. game.

Ask any of Dozier’s coaches — past or present — and his work ethic will constantly be brought up.

“I’ve coached here for seven years, and in all that time, I have never seen an athlete with the work ethic this young man has,” SFA head coach Johnny Cardenas said. “Basically, he’s a guy we have to make him take days off. We have to make him take breaks from the weight room.”

Current Denton High head coach Glen Harrison was a Broncos assistant during Dozier’s high school career. Harrison, who coached current New York Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells while an assistant at Arlington Bowie, also spoke highly of Dozier.

“Out of all the years, Hunter is by far the hardest-working athlete I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach,” Harrison said.

While at Denton, Dozier also was the starting quarterback for the Broncos. In the last game of his junior year against Little Elm, the Broncos ran a trick play and he caught a pass from his wide receiver and turned up field. He was firmly greeted by two defenders, and when he reached inside his shoulder pads after being thumped, he discovered that his collarbone was broken.

He worked his way back in time for baseball season and played both sports again his senior year. He was named the second-team All-District 5-4A shortstop in his final high school season.

Dozier traces the origins of his work ethic back to his father, Kelly Dozier, and his mother, also named Kelly Dozier, an ethic his coaches have never overlooked.

“I just always know there’s someone that’s better than me out there, and I just want to keep working as hard as I can and know that I’m outworking anybody else so I can put myself in the best situation when it comes time for the game,” Dozier said.

Former Ryan and Denton head coach Tommy Blair saw Dozier play this season. He compared the prospect to former Denton standout Jim Chamblee, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox out of Odessa College in the fifth round of the 1995 amateur draft.

“They’re both tall kids, and both of them have pop in the bat,” Blair said. “They can hit, and they can hit with power.”

But with today’s impending selection, Dozier can surpass Chamblee, Guerra and Austin Jackson, the center fielder for the Detroit Tigers who was drafted in the eighth round by the New York Yankees in 2005.

“That really says something for him because there’s been so many great baseball players to come out of Denton,” said Marty Green, Dozier’s head coach at Denton. “For him to be the highest drafted player ever, I think that’s a great honor and he’s very deserving of it.”

Prior to tonight’s draft, Dozier will most likely squeeze in a workout before joining his family for a small gathering, a celebration of hard work that’s come over time.

Dozier, who works out with Jackson in the offseason, said being drafted always felt like a long shot.

He’s no longer a long shot. Now he has the potential to be the highest pick in the city’s history.

“It’s just hard to put me in that category,” Dozier said. “Maybe when it happens, we can say that. But right now, it’s just hard to believe.”

BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.

 


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