Henry Frasca woke up Saturday as a 9-year-old Boston Red Sox fan excited to go to the ballpark, but found himself roaming Fenway Park’s left-field grass that afternoon with an Orioles cap on his head and an oversized Orioles T-shirt draped over him.
He handled the rigorous angles the historic park’s Green Monster provides. He raced around greeting different players. He caught a fly ball to cheers from the onlooking fans. All because Orioles first baseman Chris Davis wanted to thank him for helping provide a bright spot in what had been an infamously bad season.
Henry is a Red Sox diehard, yes, but he’s also a baseball fan in general, his father, Gabriel, made sure to note as he watched Henry chase down the Orioles’ batting practice drives.
“He’s reading MLB.com before I’m out of bed every morning,” Gabriel Frasca said. “The only thing he doesn’t have a device time limit for is [the MLB At Bat app]. That’d be like taking away oxygen.”
So Henry was well aware of Davis’ season-opening slump, the one that saw him go 33 at-bats without a hit as, paired with a hitless drought to end 2018, he set major league records for consecutive at-bats and plate appearances without a hit.
Gabriel grew up a Red Sox fan and passed that love to Henry. They had tickets to the second game of the Orioles’ mid-April visit to Fenway Park, and Henry had an idea: He wanted to write Davis a letter to encourage him during the hitless streak. Gabriel noted that with the game several days away, there was plenty of time for him to get a hit.
“No, lefties are pitching the next two days,” Henry pointed out. “He’ll be on the bench.”
Davis was out of the lineup for the April 12 series opener with Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodríguez on the mound. He lined out as pinch-hitter to end the game, extending his record skids to 54 at-bats and 62 plate appearances.
On the way to Fenway Park the next day, Henry realized he hadn’t written the letter and quickly pieced together what he wanted to say. The family planned to arrive in time for batting practice so they could give Davis the letter then, but they arrived later than they hoped.
“Security said, ‘You can’t come down,’ and he wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Gabriel said. “Literally, five times, the guy said no, and Henry said, ‘I have to give Chris Davis the letter.’ ”
Eventually, Orioles field coordinator Tim Cossins overheard Henry’s efforts and said he’d get the note to Davis. Gabriel could see the sincerity and seriousness with which Cossins accepted the paper.
After reading it himself, Cossins passed Henry’s letter along to Davis.
“I’m a diehard Red Sox and baseball fan,” Henry wrote. “I’m 9 years old.
“I want to tell you two things. How many hits you get has nothing to do with how good a person you are. You weren’t a better person when you were hitting more home runs. You aren’t a worse person now.
“Secondly, you’re incredible. Don’t forget. You hit 50 home runs in a season. You’re really good. You’ve got to believe in yourself, and I’m going to believe in you. There’ll be one Red Sox fan rooting for you.
“When I started reading it, I got a little choked up,” Davis said, sitting in the Orioles’ dugout with Henry beside him. “I just thought, ‘You know what? Today’s the day.’ ”
With two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning, Davis lined a two-run single into right for his first hit of the year.
“As Chris reached first and the dugout erupted, I’m kind of catching my throat,” Gabriel said. “Henry said, ‘I have mixed feelings. I’ve just helped the other team score two runs against my team.’ I said, ‘You have no idea if he got the note.’ And he said, ‘No, he got it, he got it.’ ”
Davis did have it, right in his back pocket. He joked he needed to put it in a couple of plastic bags to avoid sweating through it.
He got two more hits in the Orioles’ 9-5 victory.
“I don’t remember how many hits I had that day,” Davis said, practically begging Henry to cut him off.
“Three,” the young baseball whiz chimed in. “A single and two doubles.”
“That’s right,” Davis said. “Four RBIs, and we won.”
That last bit is the only part of the letter’s impact that Henry regrets.
“They won by four runs,” he said. “I might’ve cost us the game.”
That seemed to settle Henry, whose regret could return depending on how the season’s final month and a half shakes out.
“As long as we don’t lose the division or the wild card by one game, I’m fine with it,” Henry said.
The three-hit day sparked Davis to a strong month in an up-and-down season. He keeps Henry’s letter in his Bible, a reminder that there’s more that defines him than his batting average.
“Just talking about how it didn’t really matter who I was on the field, but what kind of person I was,” Davis said. “That’s really what touched me. Kind of made me step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Just knowing that he was keen enough to pick that up and bold enough to say something about it, it meant a lot to me.
“He’s definitely a lot sharper than I was when I was 9 years old. He’s probably sharper than I am right now.”
Regardless of Boston’s final place in the standings, the rest of this baseball season likely won’t have too many other days that live up to Henry’s Saturday. He got high-fives and handshakes from the Orioles. He did numerous interviews with Davis. Gabriel hardly stopped snapping photos.
When Gabriel reached out to the Orioles to ask whether Davis had actually gotten the letter, their public relations staff came back to say they had been hoping to find Henry. The Orioles’ visit to Fenway Park this weekend is their first since that April trip, and they worked to make sure Henry could meet Davis and his teammates.
“I’m losing my mind,” Gabriel said. “I’m barely holding it together. This would be my dream. This is his dream. The only thing better than your dream is your kid’s.”
Henry even got to go inside the Green Monster and sign his name.
“That was an experience that very few people get to do,” he said. “Even though there are, like, thousands of signatures in there. It’s also been around for 107 years. It would make sense that a lot of people have signed it.”
His favorite part of the day, though, was shagging fly balls and getting to hang out with Davis and the other players.
“I saw that catch,” Davis told him.
“I only made one catch,” Henry said humbly.
“But you got almost a standing ovation,” Davis reminded him. “Crowd went nuts.”
“The people down the line in left field did,” Henry said, staring off toward the first base side. “But not everyone else.”
Davis chuckled, then said he most enjoyed watching moments like that catch, seeing the joy Henry had roaming around left field at Fenway Park.
“It kind of reminded me what it was like to go to the field when I was younger, to go to see games and how excited I got just to be around big league baseball,” Davis said. “It was fun, that’s for sure. I’ll never forget it.”