Major league baseball’s ceremonial halfway point has arrived, and Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is enjoying a historic season.
Davis hit his 37th home run Sunday, tying Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson for the most homers by an American League player before the All-Star break. Jackson hit his 37 in 1969 with the Oakland A’s. Barry Bonds holds the major league record with 39 in 2001 for the San Francisco Giants.
With 95 RBIs so far this season, Davis joins Miguel Cabrera (30 home runs, 95 RBIs) of the Detroit Tigers as the first two players in big league history with at least 30 homers and 90 RBIs at the break.
Davis, who I profiled in May, lost in the semifinals of last night’s Home Run Derby (won by Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes), the main event leading up to the MLB All-Star Game tonight at New York’s Citi Field. He was the top overall vote getter for the Midsummer Classic and will start at first base for the American League.
Davis’ success hasn’t come without its share of controversy: The big Texan’s size—6 feet 3 inches, 230 pounds—has led to questions and even accusations of steroid use. Davis has denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, but his exceptional performance continues to fuel the speculation. (Davis has always been big: His high school nickname was “biscuit,” because his coach said he was one biscuit away from being moved to full-time designated hitter.)
Baseball fans are showing strong support for Davis—and for more than just his hitting prowess. On Saturday, The Baltimore Sun ran an article featuring women openly lusting after Davis, including his “gorgeous eyes” and his bulging biceps. “I wouldn’t mind it if he divorced his wife,” 25-year-old Catrina Kolar told the Sun.
Davis told me his wife, Jill, sometimes travels with him on the road, but fellow Christians and teammates Matt Weiters, Nate McClouth, Jason Hammel, and especially Brian Roberts help hold each other accountable. He said he became close with Roberts, 35, during spring training this year, as the two of them met at Starbucks every morning for Bible study, prayer, and to “talk about what was going on in our lives.”
Accountability is key for baseball players, who typically cannot attend church during the six-month grind of the regular season. Davis said the Orioles’ Christian players lead “pretty boring” lifestyles, traveling straight to the ballpark on game day and straight home afterward: “I go home after games, watch a movie or read a book, and that’s about it.”
When I spoke to Davis in April, he was reading the autobiography of George Mueller—the 19th century orphanage operator famous for his bold prayers.
As you watch Davis on national television tonight, it would be a good time to say a prayer for a 27-year-old who is under intense public pressure and scrutiny.
“Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I’m not human,” Davis said.
Listen to J.C. Derrick's profile of Chris Davis on The World and Everything in It: