He didn’t set the world on fire in his first months with the Orioles. But his life was on the upswing. He married Jill, a former University of Oklahoma cheerleader and registered nurse, in Nov. 2011. He has a J tattooed on his ring finger so she’s with him, even mid-game.
He finally played a full season in the majors last year, batting .270 and leading a surprise playoff team with 33 home runs. He also earned a permanent place in Orioles lore with that two-inning stint as an emergency pitcher in Boston. Davis, who hadn't pitched since junior college, went to the mound after the Orioles used eight regular pitchers and earned a win in one of team's signature victories of the 2012 season.
“What do you guys want to talk about?” Davis deadpanned after the 17-inning victory. “Hitting?”
That has, in fact, been the subject this year, as Davis has posted league-leading slugging numbers and achieved a whole new level of stardom. He’s fooled less often by off-speed pitches, and his home runs have flown to all sections of the park. The stands pulse with anticipation when he comes to the plate during one of his hot stretches.
But observers say it’s just as instructive to watch Davis -- who is making $3.3 million this year and isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season -- when he’s struggling, as he has in recent games.
Instead of trying to hit balls harder and harder, he’ll go to the batting tee hours before a game and spray line drives every which way — more Tony Gwynn than Babe Ruth. He was on the field before batting practice Tuesday, with Presley pitching to him from the third-base side so the left-handed Davis would keep his front foot straight instead of jerking it right in a vain attempt to pull the ball.
“Do you think he’s gonna hit .350 all year?” Presley said. “There’s no way. And I’ve told him that. I tell him you can’t have your A swing every day. You just got to get some hits when you have your B or C swing.”
If he keeps his form and his calm, Davis believes his strength — he now bench presses more than 400 pounds — will do the rest.
It’s a hard-earned faith, in God and the people around him, yes, but also in himself.