Posted on April 19, 2019
by Steve Janowick
I’ll never forget that game…
My son’s little league team was up by two runs in the bottom of the ninth of the championship game. The star player, the coach’s son, was on the bump-and he was dealing. But something must have gotten into his head, because after the first out he suddenly, and uncharacteristically, got really wild and couldn’t find the plate. After loading the bases, he lost all his composure and began to get emotional out there. He started sulking. He was throwing tantrums as wild as his pitches. He was basically imploding-which made his performance even more erratic. Maybe the situation was too big for this kid. Maybe his arm was sore.
No, it was neither.
This kid was a superstar and had never failed in his young baseball life-and he didn’t know how to handle it when he finally did. Eventually, he walked in the winning run then stormed off the field, but not before violently throwing his glove at his Dad like some kind of pint-sized, petulant lunatic.
The problem with this kid wasn’t his physical state or mental toughness. The problem was he had never faced true adversity in his young baseball life. He had never slumped or been “bad.” All he knew was individual success. He was the team’s superstar. So, when the proverbial shit hit the fan, and he started to falter, he didn’t know how to deal with it. The agony of defeat broke him.
Enter 2019 and we are bearing witness to one of the biggest examples of defeat in the history of ALL professional sports.
Chris Davis has been one of the most feared sluggers in the last decade. A two-time MLB home runs leader in 2013 and 2015, he possessed a brand of power that pitchers dreaded, and fans admired; so much so that he was rewarded with a mammoth contract-making him the highest paid Oriole of all time.
And just like my son’s teammate on the mound that day, Davis suddenly, and also uncharacteristically, went into a slump for the ages; one that eventually culminated in records for the worst offensive season EVER for a full-time player and most games without a hit. Sixty-two consecutive games without a single base hit! From feared and respected “Crusher” to ridiculed laughing stock in a matter of a couple seasons-that is Davis’ current reality.
But unlike Mikey Meltdown on my son’s team, Davis has been the archetype of class, grace and humility throughout this entire ordeal. He has been totally accountable. He’s been forthright. He’s been honest. He’s been diligently working with his coaches throughout.
He’s been taking his medicine like a man-day in and day out.
One can only imagine how he feels. How his wife feels. And the one that gets me the most-how his father must feel, knowing his son is getting skewered daily on a national scale with venom and vitriol. Getting made fun of. Being called a thief and a host of other lovely derogatory jabs. I couldn’t imagine hearing the world talk about my baby boy like that.
But Davis never let all the noise outwardly affect him. He may have been a basket case on the inside, but he never showed it. He did all the interviews, answered all the questions and always put on display the stoic visage. And on a sunny Sunday in Boston a week ago the baseball Gods finally looked down and ended his dreaded streak with a 3 for 5 day and 4 RBI’s, and then followed that up with a 408’ monster shot homer to right field two games later.
And how did he react?
By graciously asking for the ball. Really? A ball that will always come to symbolize, for him, the beginning and ending of one of the darkest periods in his professional career. And he wanted to keep it! That’s humility 101 stuff right there.
Chris Davis was class in defeat…and he’s now also class in victory. He may never get back to his power-hitting glory days. He may not even make it to the end of the season as an Oriole-or on any major league roster for that matter. And when it’s all said and done some will cast upon him the legacy of a disparity like no other in sports history. Many like myself, however, will remember him for being the ultimate sportsman. A great teammate. A role model for kids. A man who took the agony of defeat’s best shots…
but who’s character was never knocked down.
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