Texas Rangers first baseman Chris Davis has seemingly gone through just about every range of emotion the game of baseball will allow one player. The high of being called up to the big leagues and the low of being told you’re headed back to the minor leagues.
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Three years ago, I walked into Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas, and I sat in the stands to watch the double-A Frisco RoughRiders take batting practice. It was the first minor league game I had covered as a member of the media, so I was wanting to see what kind of players I would be watching.
A young left-handed hitter stepped up to take his cuts and swatted the first pitch he was thrown deep into the right field seats.
I asked a passing security guard who this young hitter was. His response, “Chris Davis, he’s the first baseman here.”
I watched as Davis hit shot after shot deep into the Texas afternoon sunshine. His power did not go unnoticed by the Rangers, moving him up to triple-A and eventually calling him up to the major league club.
He would make his debut with the Rangers on June 26, 2008, and would get his first major-league hit in his very first at-bat. The following day, Davis made his very first start and showed the team why he was called up in the first place, hammering a home run in each of his first two starts — the first player to do that in MLB history.
When the 2008 season came to a close, Davis was hitting .285 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI through 285 at bats. Not a bad first season for this young first baseman.
However, 2009 quickly became a season Davis would rather forget or not even look back on, striking out 150 times in 391 at bats. The following season wasn’t much better, as Davis struggled to a .191 batting average in 45 games with the team.
After two consecutive rough seasons, some might wonder if Davis was ever going to make it back and show the kind of potential the Rangers knew he had. Would he be able to get himself mentally right and make another serious run at getting back to the big leagues, proving once and for all that he belongs with every other player in that clubhouse?
While some hitters would be in their own heads, psyching themselves out, Davis said he was ready to put his struggles behind him and show he was ready to stay in the big leagues.
“The last couple of years, the reason I struggled was because I was trying to make certain changes,” he told me prior to a game against the Tigers. “Mentally I wasn’t able to make the adjustments. I did a lot of work this off season, played winter ball, and did a lot of things to get myself ready to play this season, and I feel like I’ve made that adjustment.”
In 2011, Davis has bounced back and forth between triple-A Round Rock and the major leagues, being called up once after Josh Hamilton suffered an injury against the Detroit Tigers in early April. He was then sent back down in late May after the Rangers’ MVP outfielder was ready to return.
“It’s just one of those things that comes with the job,” Davis told me about going between the minor leagues and the big leagues. “I have the opportunity to play every day [at Round Rock], I also know that I’m a guy the Rangers like to call on to come off the bench or fill in from day to day. You’d like to get to one place and stay there but sometimes it’s not what your dealt.”
Then, on June 8, 2011, Davis was again called back up when second baseman Ian Kinsler was put on the paternity list with the birth of his son.
Through 21 games this season (52 at-bats), he’s hitting .269 with three home runs and four RBI playing in a reserve roll most of the time with a spot start here or there.
When you talk to the 25-year-old, it’s hard not to root for him to have the kind of success he has been chasing for the last few years.
Davis says he realizes he’s not going to be an everyday starter for the Rangers right now, but he knows he has proven he can play at this level, and one day, he may just get the opportunity to play every day in the Major Leagues.
For Chris Davis, there’s no telling when that day might come. But there’s no question he’ll be ready when his number is called.