ESPN star’s son Chris Davis pursues MLB dream after frightening injury
Chris Davis’ father has appeared on numerous episodes of “SportsCenter.”
This summer, he finally made his own appearance on ESPN.
On June 24, the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers outfielder sprinted to shallow left field, slipped under a fly ball, and caught it while lying on his back. His ninth-inning web gem held on to a 5-4 victory over the Westside Woolly Mammoths in the United Shores Professional Baseball League.
His father, longtime ESPN host Rece Davis, watched happily from the stands at Jimmy John’s Field after flying to Utica from Bristol, Connecticut, for the game.
“He’s always really enjoyed watching me play, and that’s something I’m really grateful to him for,” Chris said. “Obviously with the geographical limitations he’s not in every game, but he’s been in quite a number since I started here.”
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The next morning, Chris saw his catch, No. 7 in the “SportsCenter” Top 10, on TV while training. While Rece was waiting at the airport, USPBL owner Andy Appleby sent him the news and the highlights clip.
“I want to emphasize that I had nothing to do with it,” Rece said. “But I’ve seen it, and it’s going to look like the greatest ‘dad thing’ ever, but when I see him play elite defensive play, the last thing I’m in for is surprise.”
Chris has always been an elite baseball player, Rece says, since winning a state championship at age 10. Chris played at Princeton and Duke before joining the USPBL this summer.
He had multiple hits and threw a home runner in that same game.
A broken nose or a twisted ankle in youth competition never put Chris aside. His most recent injuries, however, were heartbreaking. Shortly after graduating from high school, he dislocated his shoulder. Then, a frightening on-court collision at Princeton ruptured his spleen and nearly killed him.
Chris battled the fear of another serious injury upon his return to the field. But he eventually put those concerns behind him thanks to the support of his father, mother, Leigh, and sister, Elizabeth. Solid psychological coaching and better communication on the pitch only boosted his confidence. No amount of outfield pursuit can now stop him from trying to become the best player he can be.
“It was definitely a scary thing at the time, but I always had a feeling that I would be fine,” Chris said. “And then once I knew I was still going to breathe, not playing wasn’t really an option for me. If I can do that, I’m going to keep playing.
Chris has been living in a foster home in Dryden for about a month now, just 35 minutes east of where his father’s broadcasting career took off. After graduating from Alabama, Reece moved to Columbus, Georgia, where he met and married Leigh, then brought her to Flint in 1993 to start work at WJRT-TV.
In 1995 Rece moved to Bristol and ESPN. Chris was born in 1997. Chris played football and basketball growing up, but he mostly loved baseball due to Rece’s summer availability for trips to the ballpark or batting cage.
Along the way, Rece introduced Chris to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, starring George Clooney as Ulysses Everett McGill, which became one of their favorite films. In the opening sequence, McGill escapes from prison with two chained accomplices. While trying to board a train without success, he asks four boxcar stowaways, “Say, any of you blacksmiths?”, hoping to have his chains removed. iron by a blacksmith.
“First of all, it’s the greatest movie of all time, and anyone who disputes that is just plain wrong,” Rece said. “…I can’t remember the first time we watched it together, but we’ve watched it a ton since then to the point where we can quote that stuff.”
Chris, a 5-foot-9 southpaw, eventually signed with Princeton and played for the East Cobb Astros in Georgia the summer after graduating from high school. He was attracting the attention of professional scouts until he dislocated his shoulder sliding into third base on a rainy grass pitch. He underwent surgery before a year of rehabilitation.
On March 18, 2017, he was eight games into his return when he received his first start in center field for the Maryland Tigers. During the sixth inning, he collided with the right fielder while chasing a fly ball. He remained in the game, but later went to the hospital in pain and dizziness.
The first hospital was not equipped to treat him, so he was taken by ambulance to another. Chris needed six liters of blood during the first surgery on his ruptured spleen. During the second surgery, after doctors found another laceration, it was removed entirely.
“This kid who absolutely put every fiber of his being into this is under threat again,” Rece said. “It was frustrating. Of course, at the time, we don’t care about all that. We just care about saving him, and that he is healthy and understands the challenges of not having a spleen.
Despite a tense situation that almost cost him his life, Chris remained lighthearted. Waking up the first time after passing out, he looked around and noticed the doctors, nurses and his family.
“And so I said ‘Any of you blacksmiths? “, just the first line of this movie, and my dad really laughed,” Chris said. “I don’t think my mom thought it was that funny.”
While Rece is still laughing about today’s incident, Leigh was busy as the medical ‘blacksmiths’ patched up Chris. She acquired an apartment in Princeton and kept an eye on him for a month after his release.
More than six years later, thanks to life-saving treatment and the support of his family, Chris is living free from physical restraints. He’s a little quicker to get prescribed antibiotics when he’s sick due to his immune system’s lack of a spleen, but that’s about the only change.
Perhaps his biggest hurdle to playing baseball again was winning the psychological battle. When he joined the Bristol Blues of the New England Collegiate Baseball League in the summer after his spleen ruptured, his injuries lingered in his head.
“I kept having these fears that something bad was going to happen in terms of injuries,” Chris said. “It didn’t matter what the situation was. I would step into the box and I wouldn’t worry about a takedown, I would be afraid of getting hit in the face. Or if I hit the bag and my knee explodes? »
Rece was close to the late Trevor Moawad, a renowned mental coach for Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson and the Alabama and Georgia football programs, among others. Chris worked with Moawad and his associate, Sean-Kelley Quinn, to ease his mind.
Quinn trained Chris to think of all the times he’d hit successfully without being harassed, or snagged a line into the gap without colliding. Thinking rationally about the low probability of another dangerous incident allowed Chris to play the game again.
“It showed for a little while that summer when he played, but after about two weeks he had a really huge starting moment and he had some good defensive plays,” Rece said. “And I think the combination of Trevor and Sean letting him deal with that stuff mentally…combined with being able to come back and do some of the things that he was able to do before from a physical standpoint, I think, probably helped him a lot.”
After transferring to Duke for his final two years of eligibility, Chris honed his pop-up and flyball communication under the guidance of head coach Chris Pollard and outfield coach Josh Jordan, and still feels more comfortable with other players charging.
Like “blacksmiths,” his cognitive and vocal practices freed him from mistrust and prepared him to make plays like his reel take in June.
“I give them my mind as hard as I can, I slide in and I make the play,” Chris said. “It wasn’t something that worried me at all at the time.”
Chris understands the struggles of making the big leagues, especially as a 24-year-old whose college stats weren’t amazing. But 47 USPBL alumni have signed with MLB franchises, and Chris is fearlessly chasing the chance to be next.
“I hope I can, and I’m going to do everything I can to achieve those goals,” Chris said. “I still think it’s worth it from a broader philosophical perspective, but also the gratitude I feel every day for putting on a uniform.
“If we want to talk about the injuries, especially the spleen injury, I think that’s something that I really gained, it was just being grateful every day to be able to put on a uniform and to go there and enjoy the game.”
Contact Mason Young: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @Mason_Young_0.