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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Interview Part 3: Butch Davis, No Guarantees

Butch Davis, left dugout, watches an August 2014 game at Binghamton from the dugout. Davis was hitting coach at Bowie for 2014. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Home Crowd | Part 2: Simple Fact
Part 3: No Guarantees | Part 4: Two Things

Kevin Kennedy couldn't guarantee Butch Davis anything and Davis was fine with that.

Butch Davis called his old minor league manager before spring 1993, wondering if he had a need for an outfielder at AAA. That manager, Kevin Kennedy, was by then manager of the major league Texas Rangers.

What Davis got was an invite to big league camp. But Kennedy, Davis recalled, made clear the invite came with no guarantees.

"I said, 'Listen, you don't have to guarantee me anything,'" Davis recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days. "'I just want an opportunity.'"

The 35-year-old Davis ended up turning that opportunity into a major league roster spot. He also ended up having the best season of his career.

Davis spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently in the visitors dugout at Binghamton's NYSEG Stadium before a game between his Bowie Baysox and the AA Mets. Davis served 2014 as Bowie hitting coach.
Bowie hitting coach Butch Davis conducting fielding practice in August 2014 at Binghamton. (G21D Photo)
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.

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 went to Kennedy in 1993 having played for him at AAA Albuquerque in 1990 and 1991. Davis hit over .300 both those years, including .343 in 1990. But he saw Los Angeles only once for a single game in 1991.

Kennedy knew exactly what Davis could do.

"That was good to have someone who already knew your talent and what you brought to the table," Davis said. "I was very blessed and very fortunate in that situation."

Those two seasons at Albuquerque were also part of a stretch of eight years where Davis only saw time in 26 games. Throughout, though, he stayed in the game and continued trying to get back to the bigs.

In 1993, Davis' fortunes would change. Davis ended up getting into 62 contests for the Rangers. It was a career high.
Center Field at Baltimore's Camden Yards. Butch Davis hit the first-ever inside-the-park home run at Camden in 1993. (G21D Photo)
He was there the whole year. 

"It was very satisfactory knowing that all the work I had put in prior to getting there in 1993 with the Texas Rangers, it all paid off," Davis said.

Davis hit .245 for the Rangers, knocking in 20. He also hit three home runs, his first in the major leagues in nearly a decade.

One of those home runs ended up being a first itself.

On Aug. 22, Davis' Rangers were visiting the Orioles and Camden Yards. It was the park's inaugural season. In the top of the third, Davis hit a ball off the center field wall and it took a funny bounce back over the head of Oriole Mike Devereaux'.

Davis, running hard out of the box, recalled he was probably rounding third by the time Devereaux retrieved the ball. The third base coach waved him home. He was safe.

"I always brought to the table a person who would always hustle, always give 110 percent," Davis said of running hard on that play.
Bowie's Kyeong Kang takes a swing in August 2014 at Binghamton. Kang's hitting coach was Butch Davis. (G21D Photo)
It was the first inside-the-park home run of the young ballpark's existence. Davis said he didn't know that at the time.

"If I'd have known that," Davis said, "I probably would have kept the baseball."

Davis made it back to Texas the next year, but not until late July. He got into four games and got sent back down just before the strike started. He played out the year at AAA Oklahoma City.

The season over, Davis got a call from Don Buford, the assistant director of player development for the Orioles. Had Davis thought about coaching?

Davis thought he still had something to offer as a player. But he finally came around to the idea.

"I could keep playing and maybe get a cup of coffee at the end of the season," Davis said of his reasoning, "or I could get ahead and start coaching. I decided I might as well go and start coaching and loved it." (Go to Part 4)

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

Go to Part 4: Butch Davis, Two Things

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