CAPE COD, Mass.–Erik Davis approached a Cape Cod Baseball game in late June like any other, with just a few exceptions.
For this one, the Brewster righthander didn’t toss a bullpen session. He left his uniform and equipment bag at home. And in addition to wearing sunglasses, Davis had gauze taped over his right eye.
His visit to the park was his first back to the diamond since his devastating injury less than two weeks earlier in Hyannis, Mass.
Upon watching his teammates defeat Yarmouth-Dennis, Davis harbored no feelings of remorse or regret. He didn’t experience any uneasiness, either.
He simply wants to recover and return to the field, as a player, rather than spectator, as quickly as possible. His doctors said that he would make a full recovery and that a comeback was likely by summer’s end.
That’s not soon enough for Davis, who is heading into his junior season at Stanford, whose Cape season came to abrupt stop just 4 1/3 innings after it had begun.
A pitcher for much of his career, Davis has witnessed a fair number of batted balls zooming back at him. But never before had he been hit in the face.
Until June 18, when Davis made his first start for the Whitecaps.
Davis is able to replay everything about the line drive off the bat of Vanderbilt shortstop Ryan Flaherty that night. He remembers seeing the ball rocket off the barrel and toward his face. He recalls trying–in vain–to swat it away with his glove.
Then he hit the ground and quickly felt his temple, then his jaw.
After concluding that the ball hadn’t hit either spot, he touched the skin around his right eye and pulled his hand away. His fingertips were coated in blood.
Davis, who remained conscious throughout, left the field on a stretcher and was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
“It comes with the territory,” he said. “(As a pitcher) you have to know that the ball could hit you at any moment. That day, nothing was different. He just got a good piece of it.”
Davis had two successful surgeries while on Cape Cod. He had an operation on his injured right eye and later a titanium plate and screws were implanted in the 19-year-old’s face, replacing and stabilizing shattered bones.
He has since returned to his California home, where he continued his recovery amidst the support and comfort of his family. The sight in Davis’ right eye was improving daily, and there are many who are thankful.
Davis’ parents and five siblings were more than 3,000 miles away when Davis went down. Davis’ mother, Gloria, was listening to the game on the Internet when her son’s summer took a scary turn.
Fearing the worst, she bought a ticket for the first-available Boston-bound flight and arrived from California at her son’s bedside at 5 a.m., the following morning.
“When I got there, he asked me, ‘How are you doing, Mom?’ ” she said. “That’s just the kind of person he is. He saw me, and was more worried about me than himself.”
Davis received some brotherly love, too. Stanford teammates Nolan Gallagher and Michael Taylor, both of whom were playing on the Cape with Yarmouth-Dennis, stopped by his hospital room.
“Anytime someone goes through something that traumatic, it’s not about baseball; it’s about quality of life,” Taylor said. “It meant a lot to him that we were there.”
The support kept coming. Davis even received a call from Mark Prior, who suffered an elbow injury in 2005 on a similar play.
“I’ve never met him, or heard from him, but he must have heard my story because he left me a nice message,” Davis said.
One week after the incident, Davis showed no significant signs of the injury. The swelling had vanished. There were no black-and-blue marks or gruesome scars near his eye. In addition to looking healthy, Davis felt well, and was anxious to pitch again.
There is a summer league near his Mountain View, Calif., home. Pending medical clearance, Davis would like to pitch in that league.
Once school starts at Stanford, he expects things to be right back to normal. Davis made 22 appearances as a sophomore this spring, 21 as a reliever for the Cardinal. He went 1-1, 4.91 with four saves. He hoped to improve his performance as a junior, and along with it, his draft status, something he intended to accomplish this summer on the Cape.
Things didn’t go as planned, of course, and his time on the mound for Brewster might have ended prematurely, but it certainly provided Davis with a lasting memory.
“When I look back on it, I won’t be thinking about my ERA with Brewster,” he said. “I’ll remember what happened that game, that night.”
Cape Cod Times
• USA Baseball’s college national team suffered its first loss in its 15th game of the summer, a 2-1 defeat to Korea. However, a 9-2 victory the next day secured the series win, giving the team an undefeated record in series play heading into their annual battle against Japan. Team USA’s pitching staff had performed as advertised, particularly two starters had yet to allow a run. Vanderbilt lefty David Price had struck out 33 while allowing just 5 hits in 20 innings and Texas Christian righthander Jake Arrieta had not allowed a run in 18 innings, although he had walked 10 against 17 strikeouts.
Team USA’s offense was paced by Texas Tech outfielder Roger Kieschnick, who had six extra-base hits in 38 at-bats. The rising sophomore was batting .368-1-14.
• It was the flashy defense of Gino Matias (St. John’s) that took center stage at the Coastal Plain League all-star game. The rising sophomore second baseman robbed a pair of American all-stars of hits. Outer Banks outfielder Nate Parks was named offensive player of the game. The Virginia Tech senior went 1-for-2 with a triple, a walk and an RBI in the American all-stars’ 7-6 win over the National division. Parks was batting .330-3-8 in 30 games for the Daredevils.
• Arkansas righty Shaun Seibert’s strong sophomore season carried over into his summer in the Cape Cod League. The rising junior was 3-0 and had not allowed an earned run in 29 innings with 25 strikeouts for Brewster. He was 4-0, 2.79 in 61 innings this season at Arkansas.
• Southpaw Nate Boman, a ninth-round pick by the Angels this year, was 2-1, 1.54 in the six games he’d started with Yarmouth-Dennis. Boman had given up 12 hits in 23 innings with 27 punchouts. Before injuring his shoulder as a sophomore in 2005, Boman was considered a potential high-round pick. As a true freshman at San Diego in 2004 he owned the team’s lowest ERA, with a 2.26 mark. He went 5-1, 2.28 with 53 strikeouts as a sophomore before being injured. The Angels were expected to make a run at signing Boman before the school year begins in August.
• First baseman Will Breslin, a rising junior out of Belmont Abbey, was scorching through the Florida Collegiate League with Orlando. Breslin went 7-for-13 (.538) with three doubles, three RBIs and four runs during a recent tear. He was one of the league’s top five batters, hitting .328-0-9 with 22 hits in 21 games.
• A pair of Vermont’s top pitchers, Joe Esposito (senior, New York Tech) and Chris Friedrich (rising sophomore, Eastern Kentucky) were named to the New England Collegiate League all-star rosters. Esposito was 4-2, 1.99 in 45 innings over seven games. Friedrich was 2-0, 1.80 in 25 innings. Friedrich was one of the top pitchers in the NCAA this spring, going 10-2, 1.98. He threw 82 innings in 15 games, only giving up 64 hits and striking out 110. This summer he has continued that trend with 28 strikeouts and just four walks for Vermont.
• Running away with the Alaska League home run lead was Beau Mills, a rising junior from Fresno State. Mills was suspended from his team at the end of the season due to academic shortcomings, leaving the Bulldogs without their best hitter for the postseason. Mills is now showing what damage he might have provided, with seven home runs in a league where the next-closest leader had three. Mills was tied for the RBIs lead with 30. He planned to transfer to Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State.
• After leading Wisconsin-Stevens Point to the Division III World Series and being named an All-American and all-tournament player in the process, Jordan Zimmerman was having continued success in the Northwoods League. A two-way player during the spring, Zimmerman’s sole focus was pitching with Eau Claire this summer. The results have been staggering, as Zimmerman led the league in strikeouts and was fifth in ERA with a 1.12 mark in 64 innings. Batters were hitting just .144 off the righthander through nine appearances.