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July 16, 2013

From strikeout to slugger

NEW YORK — The Home Run Derby news conference was about to begin and Chris Davis’ chair on the dais was empty. This season’s biggest slugger was missing.

When Baltimore’s first baseman finally strode into the room, only one question seemed appropriate: “You were busy hitting more home runs, Chris?” the emcee asked, only half joking.

It’s no joke what Crush Davis has done with that behemoth of a 35-inch, 33-ounce bat.

In less than two years, Davis has gone from nearly swinging-and-missing his way out of baseball to matching Reggie Jackson for most home runs by an American League player before the All-Star break with 37.

“What CD is doing right now is special,” fellow Orioles All-Star Adam Jones said Monday. “Special.”

And while the long balls have made Davis one of the most popular players in the game right now, the season he’s having is even better than his tape-measure drives.

The leading vote-getter in All-Star balloting is hitting .315. He joins Detroit’s Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera as the first two players EVER to hit at least 30 homers and drive in 90 runs before the break.

“I mean, both of those guys had incredible first halves,” Washington outfielder Bryce Harper said. “I mean, first players to ever have 30-90. I mean, that’s stupid. That’s just like, video game, and let’s just go out and have some fun and smile and laugh when we strike out.”

There was a time when Davis wasn’t laughing, when “Crush” Davis, a play on Kevin Costner’s character Crash Davis, who sets the minor league record for home runs in “Bull Durham,” was worried that was all he would be: a bush league bopper.

Davis displayed great power from the start in pro ball, hitting 36 homers in his second season in the minors. He hit 118 home runs in 1,807 minor league at-bats overall.

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