51s’ Dopirak rediscovers power stroke

Las Vegas first baseman Brian Dopirak is living proof that you can go home again.

A former No. 1 prospect in the Cubs organization, Dopirak was released by Chicago before last season and signed with the Toronto Blue Jays, who sent him to Single-A Dunedin (Fla.).

A former star at Dunedin High School, the 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound Dopirak rediscovered his power stroke back home, batting .308 with 27 home runs and 88 RBIs in 106 games to help resurrect his career.

"I was excited to play at home in Dunedin. It was huge," Dopirak, 25, said Friday before the 51s’ 6-3 loss to Tacoma at Cashman Field. "I was right at home, having family support, and it was a real relaxing atmosphere. It was really good."

Dopirak led the Toronto organization in home runs with 29 last year and has continued his resurgence this season, batting .308 with 29 doubles, 19 homers and 68 RBIs in 87 games for Double-A New Hampshire to earn his first trip to Triple A.

Promoted to the 51s on Thursday, Dopirak promptly went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI to help Las Vegas to a 5-4 win over Tacoma. He went 0-for-4 in Friday’s loss.

"For me, the whole thing is his attitude," 51s hitting coach Ken Joyce said. "He looks at it like he’s got a second chance. He lost baseball once, but he’s not going to lose it again."

A second-round draft pick of the Cubs in 2002, Dopirak compiled a career year at Single-A Lansing (Mich.) in 2004, batting .307 with 38 doubles, 39 homers and 120 RBIs.

Named the No. 1 prospect in the Cubs organization entering the 2005 season, Dopirak failed to live up to expectations after that.

"I probably put a little too much pressure on myself at times to do too much," he said.

His numbers dipped at Single-A Daytona (Fla.) in 2005, and in 2006 he broke his foot twice and finished the season at Double-A West Tennessee with one home run in 52 games.

After struggling in Double A again in 2007, when he hit .218 with one homer in 21 games, Dopirak was released by the Cubs and vowed "the next time (I) put on that uniform, someone’s going to have to take it from (me)."

But he has been reborn with the Blue Jays organization.

"He has raw power that you can’t teach," Joyce said. "There’s no question he’ll get to the big leagues if he continues to swing the bat the way he is."

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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