June 26, 2012
By Jon Cooper
Jake Davies was all business in leading Georgia Tech to the ACC Championship and a berth in the Gainesville Regional.
But as business-like as that ACC Tournament and the ensuing NCAAs seemed, they were child’s play compared to where Davies is now.
Welcome to the world of professional baseball.
“It’s no longer college baseball,” said Davies, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox on the 21st round of the First-Year Player Draft (661st overall).
Davies didn’t go in blind, having a good idea of what to expect by talking with his older brother, Kyle, who has pitched for seven years in the Majors with the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals.
“He told me it’s a business and you have to produce to keep moving up. If you don’t produce they’re not going to keep you. So just drive in runs, do what I’m there for. Just produce, work hard, and give everything you’ve got.”
That work ethic in his four years at Georgia Tech led to Davies making remarkable strides and improved his marketability to Major League franchises, which passed on him coming out of high school.
“It was a great four years,” Davies said. “The ACC Tournament was fun and playing for Coach Hall and Coach [Bryan] Prince was always fun. It was a good four years. I was happy I got to play four instead of three.”
Seeing the turnaround and the ascension of Davies’ draft stock pleased head coach Danny Hall.
“To see Jake get a chance as a senior, that’s one of the reasons you coach,” said Hall. “I was really happy to see that because Jake had a tremendous year for us. We would not have been ACC champs, we certainly would not have gotten a chance to get into the Regionals without his contributions on both sides of it, on the pitching side and on the hitting side. So I was really happy when I saw him get selected in the draft.”
The Red Sox’s immediate plans for Davies are to play him at first base and possibly in left field. That will keep him on the path he’s been on the last two years, a divergent path from his first two years on The Flats, when he came out of the bullpen.
“I’m going to concentrate on hitting a little bit,” he said. “If they end up wanting me to pitch I guess I’m going to change everything back over to pitching. Hopefully the hitting stays well enough that I can just keep moving up offensively.”
Davies, who didn’t hit regularly until his junior season — he hit .336 with 19 homers and 108 RBIs over his final two seasons — believes that he can continue to grow and build off improvements made last year. The biggest of those changes was in his approach at the plate.
“My first year, I was really jumping. I wanted to crush every ball, hit every ball as hard as I possibly could, instead of taking the ball wherever the pitch was thrown. Not try to do too much with it,” he said. “My swing is really good. [Last year] I started making decisions the right way instead of trying to do too much at the plate.”
Davies has played five games with the GCL Red Sox and is finding his way, as he’s hitting .133 (2-for-15). He singled in his first professional at-bat, off Nick Barnese, in the second inning of the June 18th opener against the GCL Rays but then got his first taste of adversity as he went hitless in his next 13 at-bats.
He ended the drought in a big way in the eighth inning Saturday against the GCL Twins, as he blasted his first professional home run in the eighth inning off Hung Yi Chen in a 9-1 victory.
The Sox, who are leading the GCL South with a 4-2 record, play a 60-game slate, which runs through Aug. 25, but Davies hopes that he can progress to the point that he’ll move up to the New York-Penn League (A), and get to play for the Lowell Spinners.
“That’s where first-year college guys go,” he said. “I know a couple of guys up there. I think (former Yellow Jackets pitcher) Kevin Jacob is playing in Batavia and I know a couple of other guys that were drafted for the Boston Red Sox might be going up there.”
Davies spent the last two summers up north, playing in the Cape Cod League. This time, when he goes to Massachusetts it will be different (aside from the fact his signature mohawk is gone). He is now a professional.
But he’s still a kid at heart and still has that youthful joy for the game.
“It’s a lifelong dream coming true to play Major League Baseball,” he said.