After my postgame interview with Orioles first baseman Chris Davis on Saturday night, someone in FOX’s production truck asked me a question that I usually don’t get asked about players:
“Is he always that modest?”
Davis, 27, had just hit his 29th and 30th home runs in the Orioles’ 11-3 victory over the Yankees. But if you watch my pregame and postgame interviews with him, it’s obvious that he isn’t carried away with himself, and probably never will be.
Modesty comes easily for a player who hit 17 homers in half a season as a rookie with the Rangers in 2008, then failed to stick in the majors between ’09 and ’11, getting demoted six times.
“Chris knows the distance from the outhouse to the penthouse,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter says. “He realizes that right now he’s the flavor of the month. He has a grip on reality.”
The Rangers liberated Davis on July 30, 2010, trading him to the Orioles with right-hander Tommy Hunter for righty Koji Uehara and $2 million. He hit 33 homers last season. He’s on pace for 59 season this season. But he remembers his struggles in Texas, remembers them vividly.
“Probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned going through all that stuff in Texas is that nothing is guaranteed in this game,” Davis says. “You can be the best player in the world one day and the worst player the next day.
“You’ve just got to continue to do your little routine, continue to do things that are going to prepare you. Whether you have success or you fail, you can’t control the result. But you can always control the work that goes into it. It’s good that I went through the tough times. It really makes me appreciate what I’m going through now and also keeps me grounded.”
I asked him: OK, but aren’t there times when it’s all a little intoxicating? Leading the majors in home runs? Ranking second only to the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera in the AL with a .333 batting average? Leading the American League All-Star balloting at first base?
“I have a little different perspective now,” Davis says. “There was obviously this potential the whole time. It was whether or not I was going to be able to make the gaudy Triple-A numbers stand up at the big league level.
“I think that how I look at things now, baseball is not all-or-nothing anymore. For a long time, it was. It was the source of my happiness. If I was playing well, I was happy. If I wasn’t, I probably was miserable to be around.
“I understand we’re here for a higher purpose. My career is going to be over with someday. I don’t know how long it’s going to be. You just try to make the most of it while you can.”
Davis is a man of faith, a lifelong Christian who — as detailed by the Baltimore Sun — had a reawakening in his San Francisco hotel room the night before the 2010 World Series, after he had been left off the Rangers’ postseason roster. Since then, he told the Sun, he has begun every day by saying thanks and reading Scripture.
When I asked Davis about the importance of his faith, he replied, “It’s the sole reason I’ve been able to keep things in perspective.” He cares deeply about the game. He works hard to be the best player that he can be. But, he adds, “I know there are responsibilities for me as a husband, as a son, as a brother, as a friend.”
So, no, he’s not getting carried away.
“I don’t watch a lot of ‘SportsCenter,’” Davis says. “If I’ve got a buddy who’s playing, I might check out a game or something like that. I’m reading a lot, which is something I never thought I’d say. I try to keep it separate.
“You have a great night, go home and watch yourself on ‘SportsCenter’. It’s five minutes of highlights. But I’ve been at home too many times where I turned on the TV and saw the 0-for-6s and 0-for-7s — enough to know that when you go home it’s time to be a normal human being.”
Yet, it’s a delicate balance.
The man leading the majors in homers has been through so much, has struggled so often, he still has to tell himself at times, “Hey, you’re good.”
“There are nights when you don’t have a great night and feel like, ‘What the heck was I doing?’” Davis says, smiling. “You kind of take a step back and say look, ‘You’ve had a pretty hot start. You’re doing your job.’
“It’s all about not being too hard on yourself. It’s still a lesson I’m trying to learn. You have to be able to pat yourself on the back every now and then. The competitor in all of us wants to go out every night and go 4 for 4. You just have to realize that’s not going to happen.”
No, it’s not, but if you work hard enough, and you’re blessed with enough talent, good things will happen, too.
Good things are happening for Davis. And while a player’s sincerity often is difficult to measure, I did not hesitate to reply to the question from the production truck about Davis’ personality.