J.D. Davis

J.D. Davis is the first Elk Grove area baseball player to earn a World Series bonus check. This season, Davis was a backup third baseman for the Houston Astros. On Major League Baseball’s Opening Day 2018, he’ll get his World Series ring. He hopes it will be as a regular member of the Astros’ 25-man roster.

He’s already earned a players’ share of a World Series bonus check. On Opening Day 2018, J.D. Davis will get his World Series Championship ring. He hopes he’s standing on the baseline with his Houston Astros teammates at Minute Maid Park when he gets the shiny piece of jewelry.

There’s no doubt Davis, a former Elk Grove High School and Cal State-Fullerton two-way player, will be on someone’s 40-man Major League roster come March or April. Ideally, he’d love to stay with the World Series Champions, but Davis has heard the rumors and realizes the Astros want to upgrade the bullpen in order to defend that title in 2018. To get the arm they want, discussions have involved trading him and/or one or two of the many other outstanding prospects in the Astros farm system.

If he remains in Houston, then Davis would likely be the back-up third baseman behind Alex Bregman, now a bona-fide baseball star, and be a right-handed bat coming off the bench to pinch hit. It’s good, too, that the Astros are in the American League because Davis will be one of about five guys competing for the role of Designated Hitter, now that Carlos Beltran has retired. He’d like that because he’d be in the lineup regularly.

“Now that the Winter Meetings are over, it looks like I’ll have that opportunity to compete for that DH role,” he said. “But, right now, I am competing with about five or six guys for that last spot on the bench in the big leagues.”

There is another option for Davis – maybe.

Much of the “Hot Stove League” talk this winter has focused around Japan star Shohei Ohtani, a player who throws a 100 mph fastball and also is a big power hitter. He signed last week with the Los Angeles Angels, with the promise he’d pitch and hit regularly. Would Davis do that for Houston?

“I’d have no problem doing it,” he said. “But, no one has said anything to me, or anybody in the front office of the Astros or the coaching staff. In their minds, I am still a third baseman and a right-handed bat.”

Last season on two different occasions, Davis came on in relief in the 9th inning of some one-sided games and did quite well. But, that was the first time he’d taken the mound since his college days in Fullerton where he was a regular starter for the Titans, then would play first base or third base.

Davis started the 2017 season with Double-A Corpus Christi and was leading the Texas League in home runs when the call came to go to Triple-A Fresno. There he was impressive, albeit in just 16 games. Then the call to the Majors came, a bit unexpectedly.

All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa went on the injured list and a roster spot opened. Davis was beckoned to Houston and Bregman moved over to play shortstop.

“I was star-struck the first game or two,” he admitted. “The first couple days were a little overwhelming. A little unbelievable because you’re beside yourself. After a week or two I started to come back down to earth and as the comfort came back I started to hit the ball really well.”

Davis played in 24 games, starting 14 of them, batted .226 with four homers and seven RBIs.

Once Correa returned Davis lingered with the big club and his playing time became very limited as the Astros wrapped up the American League West championship. Perhaps his biggest day came in Oakland after not playing for about 15 games.

“I came out and pinch hit in a doubleheader and ended up hitting a home run,” he recalled. “I rented out two suites and forty people were in there from Elk Grove and Fullerton. It was pretty cool.”

He was in the lineup on the final day of the regular season in Boston, too, but when it came time to make up the playoff roster, Davis was left off.

“I knew if I was going to be on the roster I’d be one of those guys who wore those sweatshirts and sit at the end of the bench, kind of to help out, but, I knew I wouldn’t make the roster, essentially because Correa got back,” he said. “Best case scenario I was going to be a reserve.”

When the Astros made the World Series the club offered him a couple tickets to watch the games in person, but his travel and hotel would have to be on his own nickel. He chose to stay home in Elk Grove and watch the games on TV.

“If they would have paid my way, I would have gone, but it’s a better view on TV,” he laughed.

And, he admits his closeness to the team made it tough to watch the Series.

“Especially after Game Five, I couldn’t watch a whole game, it was too stressful,” Davis admitted. “Game Seven was especially surprising. We came out of the gates hot. I was surprised (the Dodgers) started (Yu) Darvish, because the Astros had seen him so many times against the Texas Rangers. I thought for sure they’d go with (Clayton) Kershaw. The Astros did what the Astros do – they hit and they play good defense.”

The off-season has been filled with grueling workout sessions, primarily under trainer Richie Anderson at Results on Bradshaw Road along with guys like Dom Nunez, a teammate at Elk Grove, now considered a promising prospect in the Colorado Rockies’ organization.

“He had a little bit of a rough taste in Double-A and that’s expected,” Davis said. “For a guy that is going straight out of high school, I know he’s going to take two steps forward from what he learned last year. Obviously, his defense (as a catcher) has always been good, he’s always been athletic back there.”

Nunez’ dad built an indoor batting cage in their Land Park home and Davis frequently takes swings there.

One highlight of this off-season to date has been a trip he and girlfriend Shelby Wisdom and his parents took to Minneapolis to visit younger brother Ben, an offensive lineman for the University of Minnesota.

“He is huge right now,” Davis said. “He weighed in a 283 (pounds) when we were there. It was nice seeing him. It was the first time I saw him since February.”

The younger Davis is enjoying his surroundings in Minnesota, J.D. said, and just finished a redshirt year, planning on being a starter at left guard or tackle next season.

Davis and Wisdom, who have been dating since the two were baseball/softball stars for the Thundering Herd, aren’t tying the knot anytime soon, Davis says. There’s just too much uncertainty about where he might be in the next few years.

“We’re just taking it slow, “ he said. “She just got done with school and this whole Houston Astros situation, we just don’t know. Nothing is cemented in the future. I could be in Houston all year and need to move out there or be with Fresno and have to stay here in California. I just don’t know.”

Still, he’s hoping to be an Astro for many more baseball seasons.

“(the Astros) are an unbelievable group of guys,” he said.

John Hull started writing sports for the Citizen in Dec., 2007. He became Sports Editor on Jan. 1, 2016. His career includes radio and TV broadcasting in Cheyenne, Wyo., Denver, Minneapolis and Sacramento. He is a graduate of the Univ. of No. Colorado.