New York Mets’ Jewish up and coming star 1st basemen Ike Davis launched his first homerun of the season recently, leading the Mets to a 6-5 victory over the Boston Red Sox. The game was played at Digital Domain Park in Florida, home to the Mets during their spring training month.
Ike Davis’ first name is actually Isaac, and his middle name is Benjamin. “I am really proud of my Jewish heritage,” Davis once said. “I’m glad Jewish kids get to see they can grow up to be professional baseball players.”
Davis is the son of Ron Davis, a major league baseball player himself, who pitched 481 games over the course of his 11 year career. The elder Davis was a power relief pitcher from 1978 to 1988 for numerous major league teams, including the new York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Chicago Cubs, LA Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants.
Ike Davis does not remember seeing his father play. Ron Davis retired as a pitcher two years after his son was born. He took the young Ike to major league games often, though. At age 12, Ike met Derek Jeter, who was an inspiration to the youth.
Baseball was in his blood from a young age. As a child, he attended a five-day baseball camp run by his father. Ron Davis was proud to see that his son had inherited his talent for the game.
“People would say Ike was good because his dad was a player, but it’s not that easy,” the proud father said. “I can tell Ike how to swing. I can teach him to pitch, but he’s the one who made it to the big leagues. You can’t teach heart and soul. That’s what it takes to play in the game.”
While attending Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, Ike won three state 4A titles and set school records for batting averages and doubles. He was selected to pitch for the United States’ Youth National Team and led the team to win the gold medal in the International Baseball Federation, and won the MVP award playing in the AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic.
Based on his high school baseball achievements, Davis was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He elected not to sign with them, and instead attended Arizona State University.
Davis continued to be a star player during his college years, winning numerous awards, breaking school records, and gaining the attention of sports media across America.
In one game, when he was a sophomore in college, Davis stepped onto the pitcher’s mound with his team trailing 5-4. He finished the ninth inning by striking out a batter, and in the second half stole home as the lead runner in a triple steal.
He continued to play baseball to great success through college. In his junior year, he was drafted by the New York Mets for his skills as a power batter and pitcher.
Davis said, “It was a huge thrill. I was excited to be picked by New York.”
He also received advice from his father, who had pitched for the New York Yankees for four seasons.
“He said they’ve got the best fans and it’s a blast because every game is live or die for them,” Ike said. “It’s a great environment to grow up playing baseball, and I’m learning to play under pressure.”
Davis spent two years playing in the minor leagues. He learned to pace himself as a professional baseball player, and excelled as a defensive first baseman. In the spring of 2010, he began spring training with the New York Mets and led the team with a .480 batting average, hitting 3 home runs.
Jose Reyes remarked, “People talk about his hitting, but for his age, he is one of the best first basemen you will ever see.”
Davis first played on Citi Field in April. Five days later, he hit his first home run in that stadium. He became known for making spectacular catches of foul balls, bracing himself against the railing in front of the first base dugout and flipping over the railing to catch the ball.
Of this, Davis said, “I’m going to try to catch any ball I can. I’ve got long arms, I guess. I’d rather end the game than worry about getting bruised.”
Davis finished the season after breaking numerous Mets rookie records. Within his first 340 games, he hit 19 home runs and made 71 runs total. Mets fans treated him like a folk hero for his successes, bringing banners that read “I Like Ike” to wave over Citi Field.
Now Ike Davis stands as one of the Mets’ most promising young sluggers. He has already shown promise in his first game of the season, and is certain to grow as a player over the course of 2011.
Casey Cosker is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to IMAGE Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn.