A son also rises: Davis set to star for Brewers
Left-field candidate has special ties to Arizona, where family moved in 1994
PHOENIX -- Arizona is a special place for Khris Davis.
The state is home to Davis' high school baseball career, first professional baseball game and Spring Training for the Brewers, the team that took him in the seventh round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Davis returned to the Valley of the Sun for Spring Training as the favorite to win the starting left-field job for the Brewers in 2014, a thrilling prospect for Davis and his father, Rodney, who moved his family to Arizona in 1994 while working for the Mariners organization.
"We are thankful he's a Milwaukee Brewer," the elder Davis and current member of the MLB Scouting Bureau said. "For him to be drafted by the Brewers and to be able to enjoy Spring Training as a family, we are very grateful."
The younger Davis played high school baseball at Deer Valley High School, about 11 miles from Milwaukee's Spring Training facility.
"It's exciting to work alongside the best players in baseball with family and friends [in attendance]," Khris said.
Having family in Arizona means the 26-year-old outfielder can enjoy the positives of having loved ones at the ballpark without dealing with a bombardment of ticket requests.
"He loves seeing family and friends at games, but he doesn't feel pressure," Rodney Davis said. "His dad and mom take care of [ticket requests]."
As fun as Spring Training is for Khris, he still has a full-time job to win. Through seven Spring Training games, Khris is hitting .238 with one home run, three RBIs and a steal.
"He did well enough [last season] to put himself in the position he's in now, but he still needs to come in and still needs to work," Brewers outfield coach John Shelby said.
Khris earned a pair of callups from Triple-A Nashville last season, including one after the All-Star break, replacing the suspended Ryan Braun. Davis played 41 games after the break, hitting .294 with 11 home runs in 119 at-bats. He did well enough in that small amount of time to earn heavy consideration to stay in left as the Brewers plan to move Braun to right.
"He can really, really swing the bat," Shelby said. "He's got a lot of power for his size."
Standing at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Davis is well known for hitting the ball hard.
"He's always hit for power. The potential is there for a 20-30-home run hitter," Shelby said.
Teammate and catcher Jonathan Lucroy sees that potential.
"[Khris] has a really good swing, very talented and has really good hands," Lucroy said. "With a guy like that, you can't sit him on the bench, you've got to let him hit."
Khris' abilities at the plate are not being questioned, but his play in the field is.
"He can hit, there's no doubt about it, but defensively, there are things we need to work on," Shelby said.
Shelby said the team will do everything it takes in Spring Training to improve Khris' defense, and he fully expects to see significant improvement.
The will to improve is a trait Khris displayed even as a youngster.
"He's blessed with talent, but has worked to mine and refine his talent and continue to improve and look to get better," Rodney Davis said.
Khris' drive comes from what his father calls high baseball IQ. Being the son of a former Minor Leaguer doesn't hurt, either. Rodney gave Khris three pieces of career advice.
"He told me, 'Don't [tick] off the [clubhouse manager], don't [tick] off the training staff and just have fun,'" Khris said. "But, he never had to worry about me adjusting to the Major League level."
Now that Khris made it to The Show, the younger Davis is teaching the elder one a thing or two.
"I'm learning things from him now," Rodney Davis said. "He has blessed me and helped my baseball development."
The Davis' careers revolve around working in the game, but at its core, it's still a father watching his son play baseball.
"He's had games at the [Major League] level that I saw him have as a boy," the elder Davis said. "That's extremely satisfying as a dad."
Jaime Eisner is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.