The return of Chris Davis

How will Orioles fans welcome back Chris Davis on Opening Day at Camden Yards on April 10?

The Orioles slugger had been holed up in his home for the better part of two days after news broke Sept. 12 that his season was over. Chris Davis had taken the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Adderall without a therapeutic-use exemption.

Davis' wife, Jill, needed something from Target that Saturday evening, and Davis volunteered to go, just to get out of the house. But he wasn't prepared for the drive through downtown Baltimore, where an Orioles game recently had ended. The air was cool and crisp, and as Davis looked around, he yearned for postseason baseball.

"I felt like everybody that was at the game was out walking on the streets. They were wearing all kinds of Orioles jerseys, Orioles shirts. People were flying Orioles flags out of their apartments. Dogs were wearing Orioles [gear]. You could really tell how excited the city was about us," Davis said. "That's kind of when it all hit me. I told Jill after that Saturday night, after I came back home, I thought: 'I don't know if I'm ever going to get over this.'"

Why?

In late March, Davis sat down with The Baltimore Sun for a candid, hourlong interview about his mindset and hope for redemption. There were some new revelations, or at least clarifications, regarding his 25-game suspension, which doesn't expire until he sits out one more regular-season game.

Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, a player can be suspended only after testing positive for a banned substance twice. Citing legal considerations, Davis would not discuss the entire saga, but admitted for the first time that both the failed tests occurred during the 2014 season. Both were for Adderall.

After a player fails once, he is subjected to increased scrutiny, so Davis, after his first positive test, had to expect to be tested again last season. Because of an agreement between Major League Baseball and the players association, the likelihood of his undergoing multiple tests already had increased; according to a joint report, the number of administered tests for performance-enhancing drugs and/or stimulants jumped from 4,022 in 2013 to 6,394 in 2014.

So, given the facts and the risks, why keep taking a banned stimulant?

"I think that is something people will always wonder. 'Why didn't he stop?'" Davis said. "And I don't really know if I have an answer for that."

He knew he wasn't permitted to take Adderall. But because it settled him during a hectic time in his personal life and a frustrating period professionally, he gambled and lost.

A therapeutic-use exemption would have changed everything. There were 113 players who had TUEs in 2014; Davis was not one of them. He was one of eight players from October 2013 to October 2014 to test positive for Adderall.

Davis told The Sun that he was "the poster child for [ADHD] when I was young." He was diagnosed as an adult in 2009, when his inability to remember things such as team meeting schedules became a detriment. He began taking Adderall then, and said he had TUEs in 2009, 2010 and 2011, when he was traded to the Orioles.

In spring 2012, Davis began the process of applying again for the exemption, even discussing it briefly with an Orioles team doctor. But he said he was so focused on making an impact in his first full spring with the Orioles, he didn't file the paperwork and didn't interview with the MLB-appointed physician.

"I had a lot on my plate that spring training as far as trying to make the club, trying to be an everyday player for, hopefully, the first time," Davis said. "There were just a lot of other things going on that I was more concerned about than having to sit down and talk to a doctor for an hour and a half or whatever."

He had a breakout year in 2012, batting .270 with 33 homers. Still, he felt as if he needed Adderall for managing his off-field life. But when he applied for a TUE before the 2013 season, he was denied. Baseball was cracking down on the use of the drug for nonmedical reasons, and Davis was a casualty of the elevated scrutiny.

"I had been approved in the past. It hadn't been an issue, and then all of a sudden, I was denied. I was not given any answers," he said. "I was just told that the doctor felt like I didn't have ADHD."

In 2013, Davis delivered one of the greatest seasons in club history. He hit a franchise-record 53 homers, drove in a majors-best 138 RBIs and placed third in American League Most Valuable Player voting. Afterward, having not gotten the exemption, Davis said he didn't bother to apply for a TUE in 2014.

It ended up being his worst professional season. An oblique injury sent him to the disabled list in April. He struggled all season to get his average over .200 — it ended at .196 — and was suspended. The specter of his great 2013 season loomed.

Personally, things were better for Davis and his wife, but still hectic. The couple's first child, Ella, was born in May. And the family was building a new house in Texas.

Davis maintains that he didn't take Adderall for a boost at the plate. He said that for someone with ADHD, it doesn't work that way; the drug provides more of a calming, settling feeling. He stresses that he used Adderall for a better quality of life.

"There were a lot of things that were just distracting outside of baseball. And I didn't really feel like I was coming to the field every day focused on what I should," he said. "I felt like I was kind of doing my work at the field and thinking about a bunch of other things. That's why I made the decision to take the medication that I had."

Davis spent part of this offseason going through the requirements to receive a TUE. He was granted one in 2015 for Vyvanse, a slow-releasing ADHD stimulant that is not likely to be abused by players.

So that part of the story has ended. Now Davis must write a new chapter by repairing relationships with his teammates and fans while attempting to return to his All-Star form.

Telling the team

Davis remembers calling manager Buck Showalter on Sept. 11, 2014, to inform him of the suspension.

"Calling Buck was not easy," Davis said.

It began a stream of difficult phone conversations. Because the Orioles were playing a doubleheader the next day and Davis had to make a quick decision about whether to appeal the suspension immediately, he wasn't permitted to go to the field and address his teammates face-to-face.

"That was probably the hardest part," he said.

The 2014 Orioles, with their us-against-the-world mentality, were extremely close. And suddenly, a team leader was gone. His teammates were hurt, angry, shocked. Davis said reliever Darren O'Day and catcher Matt Wieters, in particular, gave him an earful.

"We're teammates and we are friends, so there are two different relationships you have to consider there," O'Day said. "We just talked about just how I thought it was a pretty selfish act, a misjudgment. It's a tough time of year to do it, especially considering where the team was."

Wieters said he called Davis to express his concern and to make sure he was taking accountability. He also told Davis he should have reached out if things were rough.

"Wiety let me have it pretty good," Davis said.

More than six months have passed. The Orioles celebrated the AL East title without Davis — he listened to it on the car radio as he was traveling — and ultimately were swept in the AL Championship Series by the Kansas City Royals.

A free agent at this season's end, Davis said he's no longer taking his role with the Orioles for granted. He is getting to the spring training complex before 7 a.m. each day to work on his game. He said he guarantees he'll run out every ground ball this year. His teammates say they believe his remorse is genuine.

"We've all had bad moments. His just happened in a public eye," O'Day said. "I think it's water under the bridge. I hope he has moved on, and I know we have. So we are ready for him to get back to hitting home runs."

Will Orioles fans be as forgiving? So far, Davis said they have been. He said he was treated warmly at the club's annual FanFest in January and throughout spring training.

"I thought at first it was really going to burn them," he said. "But there's been an overwhelming response of forgiveness and acceptance and support, which I should have known with the way I've been treated the last couple of years."

There have been hecklers, of course. One spectator at a spring training exhibition game kept chanting "Roid Davis" every time Davis stepped to the plate. But Davis said he has been fielding steroid allegations — and categorically denying them — for years. So that didn't faze him.

The real test will come next Friday, at the Orioles' home opener, when his name is announced at Camden Yards and he runs down the orange carpet from center field to the infield.

"I can't tell you how I am going to feel running down that carpet," Davis said. "It's always been a welcoming place for me to go back home, even when I was struggling."

Forgiveness is important, Showalter said, but there's merit in not forgetting what happened.

"I have personal feelings about it, how it all came down. But it's in the past. We are moving on," Showalter said. "It's a life lesson learned. It's a good example for all of us to learn from."

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