By Brandon Niles Explorebigsky.com Sports Columnist
There’s a buzz in Baltimore right now, as the Orioles are keeping pace in the
American League East division and first baseman Chris Davis is leading the
charge with 24 home runs through 71 games.
Davis is more than just a slugger. The 27-year-old product from Longview,
Texas was also batting .337 as of June 17, second only to Detroit third
baseman and seven-time All-Star Miguel Cabrera. Davis has reignited a
Baltimore fan base that had been dormant for more than a decade; last
season was only the second year since 1998 the team made the playoffs.
I was sitting at David’s 1st and 10 Sports Bar in Baltimore over Memorial Day
weekend, and while it was early afternoon, people were already filtering in to
watch the Orioles.
As I was enjoying a drink, I noticed the fervor surrounding me. People of all
ages had their eyes glued to the 35 screens throughout the bar that were
mostly showing the Orioles game. I’d only seen this kind of excitement once
before in Baltimore, at a pre-game party for the Ravens in 2007. Such
interest in the Orioles is rare, however. Though they lost in the ninth inning
that day, there was obvious optimism in the bar.
Davis is a big part of the heightened interest in the Orioles in Baltimore.
Adam Jones and Manny Machado are also playing well, both batting over .300, and closer Jim Johnson is third in the league with 19 saves. However,
the vast improvement in his eighth season is quickly making Davis the face
of a new era in Oriole baseball.
Davis began his career with the Rangers in 2008, posting respectable
numbers his first two seasons before a rocky couple of years when he went
back and forth to Triple-A. In 2011, he was traded to the Orioles and hit a
modest five home runs and batted .266 in Baltimore.
But last season Davis broke out. He hit 33 home runs and appeared in 139
games, both career highs. He batted .270 and finished with 139 hits, more
than 40 over his previous best. He was a big reason why the Orioles made
the playoffs last year, and this season he’s showing fans that it wasn’t a
fluke. He’s currently on pace for his best season, and if he continues on this
pace, it will be his first year batting over .300.
Davis is also gaining fame in Baltimore with notable, and sometimes bizarre,
feats. He set a major league record this season with 16 RBIs in his first four
games, and he became one of only four players to ever start the season witha home run in each of his first four games, joining Nelson Cruz, Mark
McGwire and Willie Mays.
On the bizarre side, Davis finished a game as the winning pitcher last season
against the Red Sox. In a game that lasted 17 innings, the Orioles exhausted
their entire bullpen and turned to Davis, who became the first position player
to pitch for the Orioles since 1996.
The Orioles are on their way up, and Chris Davis is the catalyst. As a parttime Baltimore fan I’ll be eager to see if they can sneak back into the
playoffs, and if they can finally give fans the excitement they’ve been
waiting for since Cal Ripken left Camden Yards 12 years ago.