Big League Connection Brings Davis To Ducks
The Atlantic League has become a place where many former Major League players have come to play to continue their baseball careers. If a big league organization has not signed them to either a Major League or Minor League contract, independent leagues become a viable option for them to continue playing competitive, professional baseball. Some former big leaguers may come in with the mentality that they are “better than” an independent league and believe they will be signed shortly after beginning play there. Others view it as an opportunity to showcase the talent that they have while primarily focusing on helping the team win.
The latter is the viewpoint of Blake Davis, a former Major League infielder who was recently signed by the Ducks for 2015. He comes to Long Island without any previous independent league experience but has played nine seasons of professional baseball. Although he ideally would still be a part of an affiliated team, the Atlantic League has given him the chance to keep playing the game he loves.
“I’m just real excited about the opportunity,” Davis said in an interview on Wednesday. “I was a little disappointed not getting picked up by an affiliated team, but I’m real thankful for the opportunity the Ducks are giving me to get a chance to play every day and we’ll see where it takes me.”
Davis was born in the warm climate of Southern California and continues to live there in a town called Fountain Valley. He played his collegiate ball near home at California State University – Fullerton, but upon getting drafted in 2006, he would shift his career to the east coast. The Baltimore Orioles chose him in the fourth round, and ever since that point, the furthest west he has played was Indianapolis, where he spent the 2014 campaign with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate.
The high point of Davis’ career came in 2011, when he earned a call up to the Major Leagues with the Orioles. After spending five and a half seasons in the minor league ranks, he had finally achieved the dream that so many young ballplayers have. When that time came, he was almost speechless.
“I got called into the office after batting practice, and our manager just said ‘Congratulations, you’re going up,’” Davies reminisced. “It was one of those things where you knew it might happen, but when it does, it’s like it’s not real because it’s something you’ve dreamed about your whole life. When it happened, I just sat down and didn’t know how to feel. I looked back on my whole life, and it was such a great feeling. Then after getting up to the Major Leagues and being around the guys, you settle back in a little. It’s one of those things though where once you get that taste, you want it so bad again.”
Now in the Majors, Davis wanted to get two monkeys off of his back as quickly as possible to shake the nerves: his first hit and his first home run. He didn’t have to wait long for the first one. After a rocky debut that included an 0-for-4 at the plate and an error in the field, Orioles Manager Buck Showalter put him back in the lineup in the next game, and he delivered. Davis went 2-for-5 in a win over the Cincinnati Reds, and his first big league hit was a two-run triple off of Edinson Volquez. The second big milestone would have to wait nearly two months, but his first longball would be a memorable one. The reason? It came off of his former teammate and future Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
“You face a lot of great guys along the way, and to get my first homer off of Max Scherzer, who I played with in college on Team USA, was kind of cool,” Davis said. “Getting that first hit out of the way though, especially after my first game, helped me settle in a little bit, and my nerves settled down.”
Following a 2014 season that saw Davis appear in just 85 games, he was released by the Pirates in November. The infielder was hopeful that another Major League organization would give him an opportunity, but the phone remained quiet heading into spring training. That’s when Davis reached out to another close friend of his and former teammate: Lew Ford.
“We texted a bit last year when I was with Pittsburgh and he was with the Ducks, and then I texted him this year and told him that I hadn’t signed with anybody,” he recalled. “Having that friendship with Lew I think kind of helped me get this opportunity.”
Davis and Ford were teammates in 2012 with the Norfolk Tides, Triple-A affiliate of the Orioles, after Baltimore signed Ford from the Ducks. Ducks fans will remember Ford tearing it up and Double-A and Triple-A en route to returning to the Major Leagues for the first time since 2007. In fact, he ended up playing against the Yankees in the American League Division Series, a moment that still resonates in the minds of players who celebrated the 2012 Atlantic League championship by watching Ford on television in the Duck Club at Bethpage Ballpark. After seeing Ford’s story play out in a successful way, Davis became increasingly open to the idea of playing for Long Island.
“I’ve seen so many guys that I’ve played with in affiliated ball that just got picked up from the Atlantic League,” he noted. “I felt like it would be a gateway back into signing with a Major League team. Lew’s story was definitely a confidence booster. I understand that you have to play well to get picked up, but seeing it and being around some of the guys that have come from this league is definitely something that interested me.”
So now, with veteran Ducks shortstop Dan Lyons and 2014 Ducks second baseman Cody Puckett returning to the squad, a Major League veteran will join the mix. While Davis has spent the majority of his career as a shortstop, he primarily played second base with Indianapolis and has experience at third as well. Puckett also has experience at third to go along with his primary spot at second. The versatility of the Ducks infielders will certainly be a positive for Ducks manager Kevin Baez. The fact that Baez and bench coach Bud Harrelson are former infielders was another big reason for Davis’ decision to join the Flock.
“I’m excited to work with the coaching staff since I play middle infield,” he said. “I know that Kevin and Bud both played shortstop with the Mets, so I’m eager to learn from them and see what happens.”
Ultimately, Davis has a strong desire to return to a big league organization and eventually, the Major Leagues. However, the 31-year-old understands the opportunity that has been presented to him and is ready to begin a new chapter of his career. While getting back to affiliated ball is important for Davis, improving as a ballplayer is paramount in his mind for 2015.
“I just want to get back to being able to play every day and produce at the plate,” he noted. “I think I would like to steal more bases, show I can get on base a little more and keep doing my thing on defense. I really just want to do the best I can and worry about helping the team win. I feel like I still can play and produce at the Major League level, and hopefully, I’ll get that opportunity again someday.”
As we enter the homestretch of the offseason, the roster continues to take shape for the Flock. A total of 15 players have now been signed. Davis becomes the fourth former Major Leaguer to join the team for 2015, and Ducks fans should be excited to watch him play on Long Island. With strong play and the right opportunity, his story just might turn out to be a replica of Ford’s.
Posted on April 1, 2015, in Player Signings and tagged 2014, 2015, Atlantic League, Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter, Bud Harrelson, Edinson Volquez, Indianapolis Indians, Kevin Baez, Lew Ford, Long Island Ducks, Major League Baseball, Max Scherzer, Pittsburgh Pirates. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.