Former Southern Miss star Brian Dozier had to wait until the eighth inning to make his first appearance in the All-Star Game, but he made it count when he got his chance Tuesday night.
The Minnesota Twins second baseman ripped a knee-high offering from Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mark Melancon to deep center field for a solo home run to push the the American League's lead to 6-2 in the eighth inning in Cincinnati.
It was an impressive shot off one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball. Melancon has allowed just a pair of homers in 43 innings this season. He has a 1.47 ERA and 29 saves in 30 opportunities.
Dozier became the first player to hit a home run in his first All-Star at-bat since Boston Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew did in 2008.
There are just a total of 16 players who have homered in their first All-Star at-bats, including David Wright, David Ortiz, Bo Jackson and Johnny Bench.
Dozier also became just the third Twins player to hit a homer in the All-Star Game. The other two are Hall-of-Famers - Harmon Killebrew (1961, '65 and '71) and Kirby Puckett (19930.
“I don’t deserve to be in that company,” Dozier told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I don’t deserve that.”
Dozier told the Star-Tribune that he was nervous about stepping into the batter's box to pinch hit for Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis.
“My family was here, waiting to see if I was going to get in or not,” Dozier said. “I could kind of feel that from them.”
Dozier was all smiles as he entered the A.L. dugout and received hugs from his teammates. Kipnis was the first player waiting to embrace him.
Dozier continues to impress as one of the best power-hitting second basemen in the majors. He entered the all-star break hitting .256 with 19 homers, 50 RBIs and 26 doubles.
Dozier was the last player to be added to the A.L. Roster on Saturday when the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista went down with an injury. It capped a wild week for Dozier after he hit two walk-off homers for the Twins in the course of a week.
“Everything last week, up to this point, has been a flood of emotions,” Dozier told the Star-Tribune. “All good ones. From the support of Twins family back home, winning six of seven coming into the break and coming here. It has been pretty cool.”
The Fulton native was a standout at USM from 2006-09. He earned Freshman All-American honors and was an All-Conference USA selection. He batted .355 with 55 doubles 16 homers and 152 RBIs during his time at USM.
Dozier is the first Major League All-Star from USM since San Francisco Giants third baseman Jim Davenport earned a spot on the National League squad in 1962.
USM has suffered through a stretch of bad luck on the athletics side, but Dozier gave Golden Eagle fans reason to smile Tuesday night.