ARLINGTON -- Before going from Texas to Baltimore, Chris Davis went from the University of Texas to the Navarro Bulldogs.
He didn’t have a say in the 2011 trade that made him an Oriole, a change of scenery that has launched the 27-year old Davis into super-stardom, reaching the All-Star break with 37 home runs, the most since Barry Bonds’ 39 in 2001.
Davis did have control over a decision before the 2005 baseball season to go from one of college baseball’s super powers, Texas, to Corsicana and Navarro.
Davis spent the fall of 2004 at UT, didn’t see himself playing every day and transferred to Navarro, where he blossomed into one of junior college baseball’s top power hitters under the tutelage of Skip Johnson and Whoa Dill, then an assistant and now Navarro’s head baseball coach.
Davis, who was in town over the weekend for the Rangers-Orioles series, said it’s one of the best decisions he’s made in his baseball career.
“I was able to concentrate more on baseball,” Davis said. “There’s not a lot to do in a town like Corsicana as opposed to Austin. Most of stuff you’re going to do ... you can’t get in quite as much trouble as you can in Austin. I was able to focus on baseball a little more and focus on my schoolwork a little more.”
Going the junior college route allowed Davis, drafted by the New York Yankees out of Longview High School in the 50th round of the 2004 MLB Entry Draft, to be drafted two more times (JUCO players can be drafted after their freshman and sophomore seasons).
Davis was picked in the 35th round by the Los Angeles Angels after his freshman year at Navarro. Then he hit 19 home runs as a sophomore at Navarro, won the Region XIV East Zone MVP and was picked in the fifth round of the 2006 draft by the Rangers.
“Navarro gave me the chance to be drafted twice,” Davis said. “To be noticed by scouts. To play every day.”
And there’s the one common thread between what Davis has done in the two major moves he’s made in his career — one by his own accord and the other because of a trade. Both times he responded in a big way.
Davis was given a chance to play every day somewhere. Baseball is a game of routine. Especially for hitters.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Davis said. “Even last year I played 130-something games. This year I’m on pace to play 161 games. There’s something to say for playing every day.”
Davis has grown tired of talking about his breakout season and the trade. He knows leaving Arlington was the best thing for his career, not because he couldn’t have done what he’s done this season with the Rangers.
But because the door had closed with the Rangers, who had made a decision to go with Mitch Moreland at first base and who had an perennial All-Star at third base in Adrian Beltre.
“I just got to the point with Texas where they had formed their opinion of me about what kind of player they thought I was going to be,” Davis said. “There wasn’t really anywhere for me to play every day. They liked Mitch at first and then obviously Adrian at third you’re not going to move him.
“So it was just getting to play every day. There are a lot of people that want to look for other reasons why I’ve been successful, but you just can’t put a price tag on experience.”
Just like his move from being a Longhorn to being a Bulldog.
Davis’ 19 home runs his sophomore season at Navarro are astonishing when you consider only seven homers were hit during the 2013 season by the Bulldogs at Graham Field.
“That’s the luxury of being a power hitter,” Davis said. “A lot of times it doesn’t matter whether you’re playing in a pitchers ballpark or not, if you hit a ball well it’s going to go.”
Playing at Navarro for Johnson — now the pitching coach at Texas — and Dill allowed Davis to grow up as a person.
“At Navarro it was more about maturing as a baseball player on the mental side of things,” Davis said. “Keeping my emotions under control. Learning how to read pitchers. How to notice tendencies and really how to lead a team. I came in and was supposedly one of the leaders on my high school team and I didn’t really know how to lead guys. I’m not a big rah rah guy. It taught me how to lead by example and go about my business the right way.”
Davis, who still follows Navarro baseball religiously and has said on numerous occasions that he considers it the school he has the closest ties to — not Longview or Texas — praised the job that Dill has done with the Bulldogs.
Navarro won the 2011 JUCO World Series and made it back to Grand Junction for a second time in three years this season. Davis knows the Bulldogs are doing it without the big slugger that he was at Navarro.
“I’ve seen some of their power numbers lately and they’re but no means gaudy,” Davis said. “Whoa’s obviously doing something right.”