by Kevin Kimmes
If I told you there was a player on this year’s Timber Rattlers roster with only one year of baseball experience, could you pick him out? While you might think it would be easy to spot, inexperience showing at the plate or in the field, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Meet Johnny Davis.
The Compton, CA native, who’s walkup is the apropos “Straight Outta Compton” by rap legends N.W.A., is a speed demon on the base paths and a hitter’s nightmare in center field. Drawing comparisons to current Brewers’ center fielder Carlos Gomez or the fictional Willie Mays Hayes, Davis was the fastest player in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft according to Baseball America.
Cream City Cables: Prior to 2013 you had never played organized baseball. You played football, you ran track, so what made you decide that baseball was the path you wanted to take?
Johnny Davis: I always knew when I was a kid that I wanted to be a professional athlete and a scout saw me working out baseball with my little brother and told me I could get drafted. So, I thought, might as well do it, might as well get it done.
He told me he wanted to sign me right then and there but by me being in college he couldn’t, he had to wait until the draft. So I went to college, played baseball and got drafted.
CCC: Your speed in the outfield and on the base paths has drawn comparisons to players like Carlos Gomez and the fictional Willy Mays Hayes. As you continue to learn the game, what has been your biggest focus thus far?
JD: My biggest focus is trying to learn to get good jumps, trying not to get picked off by pitchers. Those things are tough, especially when they know I’m running. Sometimes a pitcher will pick at me more times than he’ll throw pitches, so it’s really tough getting a jump, it’s really tough stealing bases. It’s easy for someone who’s an average runner to steal bases, but someone who’s a plus runner it’s very hard to steal bases, very hard.
CCC: From a hitting perspective, early in the season you were trying to kill every ball you saw, but lately we’re seeing more slap hitting from you. What kind of adjustments have you had to make to bring your average up to .300?
JD: Just thinking about knowing my role and putting the ball in play. That’s what I need to do and that’s why I changed my approach and started putting the ball in play.
CCC: From a defensive perspective in the outfield we’ve watched you lay out for some balls that frankly looked like “Top 10 Plays”. What’s your mental approach to playing defense?
JD: Taking base hits from the opponent and helping my pitchers anyway I can. That’s my main focus when I’m on defense. I want the ball hit to be hit to me, I want it to be hit in the gap. I pride myself on my defense and I want to layout for balls and things like that.
CCC: Anything else we should know about Johnny Davis?
JD: Toughest competitor you’ll ever meet…EVER!
Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.