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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Interview Part 2: Butch Davis, Simple Fact

Bowie Baysox hitting coach Butch Davis throws some batting practice in Binghamton in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Home Crowd | Part 2: Simple Fact
Part 3: No Guarantees | Part 4: Two Things

Butch Davis never hung his head. Not during a stretch of eight seasons where he'd get back to the majors, but quickly get sent down.

In those eight years, Davis saw all of 26 major league games - total.

"The simple fact is," Davis told The Greatest 21 Days recently, "there's so many kids that play this game, have that dream and never make it. I was one of the ones that had the dream and was very fortunate to make it."
He was also hungry to get back.

"I just felt like, if I go out, give it my all, work hard and do the things I'm supposed to do, that there will always be a second chance."

For Davis, his big second chance came at the end of those eight seasons. He was rewarded with a season where he saw 62 games with the Rangers. He also was rewarded by getting into the record books at Camden Yards in Baltimore, becoming the first player there to hit an inside-the-park home run.

Davis spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently at Binghamton's NYSEG Stadium, Davis' Bowie Baysox visiting the AA Mets.
Bowie hitting coach Butch Davis directs players on the field during pre-game practice. (G21D Photo)
Speaking inside the visitor's dugout, Davis recounted his career from growing up in North Carolina to turning pro and making his way to the majors. His playing career over, Davis has gone on to a long coaching career with the Orioles that's now spanned two decades. He spent 2014 as hitting coach at AA Bowie.

Along the way, Davis also ended up with a brief appearance in one of the most iconic baseball movies of all time: Bull Durham.
Davis made his major league debut in August 1983, getting into 33 games down the stretch for the Royals. He then got into 41 with the big club in 1984. His average also dropped from .344 in his first stint to .147 in his second.

He then didn't make it back to the majors until 1987, getting seven games with the Pirates. He then got 13 games with the Orioles in 1988 and five back there in 1989. He then got a single game with the Dodgers in 1991.

When he started moving to different organizations, Davis knew his new organization had nothing invested in him. That meant he had to prove his worth quickly.

Davis just played like he always did.

"What you go in with is a positive attitude," Davis said. "If you work hard enough and you do good enough, there might be a cup of coffee at the end of the season for you. And that's what I was able to get because of my dedication to the organization, my hard work, my good work ethic."

He also believed he brought something else to the teams he played on.
Baysox David Adams scores on a play at the plate at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton in August 2014. Adams' hitting coach was Butch Davis. (G21D Photo)
"I'd like to think I was a model citizen in the clubhouse for the younger kids," Davis said. "I'd like to think I brought that to the table, as  well."

Throughout those years, though, he knew his major league time was important, no matter how little time he got. The 26 major league games he got in those years, were just that, he said, major league games.

"I always wanted to take whatever I could get," Davis said.

It was in the fall of 1987, after his seven games with the Pirates, that Davis signed up to be an extra in a baseball movie called Bull Durham.

And he didn't just get into the movie, his name is actually said in the movie. His real name: Butch.

The opportunity, Davis recalled, came because he lived in North Carolina. He'd seen ads looking for extras, but it wasn't until future major league manager Grady Little, whom Davis knew, called and asked. Little worked as a trainer on the film.

Davis was initially going to pass, stay home and relax. But Little's call prompted him to do it.

"I went out and I had a wonderful time," Davis said. "I would never have thought that that movie would have been as big a movie as it is now."
Bowie hitter Buck Britton walks to the plate at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton as the home bat boy returns a bat to the dugout. (G21D Photo)
It's the first thing some people say when they see him, Davis said, that he was in Bull Durham. "I say, 'yup, I was there."

"Doing it, it was great to get a chance to meet Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins," Davis said. "That was a treat."

Davis' big scene comes about 26 minutes into the film, just after Costner's "shower shoes" speech and just before Costner's voice-over to himself that he's thinking too much at the plate.

In between, Davis, wearing Durham Bulls' No. 15, strikes out swinging.

"Woah, too bad, Butch, too bad," the PA announcer says before Davis walks back the dugout.

After noting they used his name, Davis joked to The Greatest 21 Days that they didn't give him anything extra for it, "but they used my name, 'too bad, Butch.'"

Davis also appears in the background of some other parts. But his big, brief scene ends as the real Davis passes the fictional Davis, Crash Davis, walking up to the plate. The real Davis flips his helmet to the bat boy, returns his bat to the rack and heads for the bench.

In 1993, Davis was on a major league bench for the entire season, getting into 62 games for the Rangers. In one of those games, Davis returned to the bench after running the full 360 feet around the bases for that inside-the-park home run. (Go to Part 3)

Part 1: Home Crowd | Part 2: Simple Fact
Part 3: No Guarantees | Part 4: Two Things

Go to Part 3: Butch Davis, No Guarantees

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