BALTIMORE -- Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and his wife Jill donated $3 million to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Monday, the largest charitable gift ever received by the hospital from a Baltimore sports figure. Hospital officials said the funds would
BALTIMORE -- Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and his wife Jill donated $3 million to the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital at the University of Maryland Medical Center on Monday, the largest charitable gift ever received by the hospital from a Baltimore sports figure. Hospital officials said the funds would be allocated for the expansion of a state-of-the-art pediatric hybrid catheterization and operation room used to fight congenital heart disease.
“Much of what today is about is recognizing the Davis’ incredible contributions, commitment and generosity,” said Dr. Mohan Suntha, UMMC’s president and chief executive officer. “What they’ve done today will truly impact generations in the state of Maryland.”
The Davises have long been active with the hospital, where their second daughter, Evie, was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect in January 2018. The condition manifests as a hole in the wall that separates the heart’s lower chambers and allows blood to pass from the left to the right side of the organ. Evie spent six days in the newborn intensive care unit and was medically cleared before her first birthday.
“As a dad, it was uncharted territory. It hit me a lot harder than I thought it would, and it stayed with me a lot longer than I thought it would,” Davis said. “I didn’t expect anything like this to come up. I wasn’t prepared at all. I don’t think anything could’ve prepared us. It was a completely different scale for me. Baseball is a job. This was my life. Baseball is going to stop someday. I am going to be a dad for as long as I live.”
Davis is a three-time nominee for MLB’s prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, largely because of his family’s involvement with UMCH. The Davises have hosted a charity home run derby called “Crush’s Homers for Hearts” at Oriole Park at Camden Yards during each of the last three summers. To date, the event has raised more than $250,000 for UMCH Children’s Heart Program. Jill Davis, a trained pediatric nurse, has spent time volunteering in the NICU at UMCH.
Meant to service some of the hospital’s most serious and complex cases, the new pediatric hybrid catheterization and operation room will be named the Evelyn Kay Davis Congenital Hybrid Catheterization Suite in Evie’s honor. Suntha said the donation would expedite the expansion of the suite, which comes with a total price tag of $10 million.
“This was a plan that was in motion,” Suntha said. “Their gift helps accelerate the timeline. That is one of the most dramatic impacts of a gift like this.”
UMMC’s director of vascular surgery, Rajabrata Sarkar, said the gift would also benefit the hospital in recruiting, aiding its ability to attract top doctors and surgeons to Baltimore. UMCM Children’s Heart Program co-director Geoffrey Rosenthal said it would double the hospital’s capacity to perform lifesaving pediatric operations, potentially by 500 new cases per year.
“We are saving lives every day,” UMCH director Dr. Steven J. Czinn said. “With this gift, we are going to the next level.”
As they did several times throughout last season, Chris and Jill Davis spent Monday afternoon visiting some of the hospital’s youngest critically ill patients. Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. was on hand as well, a day after he hosted a local RBI player and high school student at Sunday’s Ravens game. Chris and Jill Davis both said the idea to enhance their contribution came after one of their visits this summer.
“We love Baltimore. We’ve started discussing if we’re going to stay here, what we’re going to do,” Davis said. “But having a relationship with the hospital, Baltimore will always have a place in our hearts.”
If nothing else, the donation provides Davis long-term ties to the city at a time when his future with the Orioles has never been more in doubt, despite his seven-year, $161 million contract that runs through 2022. He hit .179 with a .601 OPS in 2019, his third straight subpar year since signing that deal, faded into a reserve role by season’s end and engaged in a very public dugout spat with first-year manager Brandon Hyde. Executive general manager and vice president Mike Elias said in September that Davis will be part of the team come spring 2020, but enough uncertainty existed for Davis to publicly wonder later that day whether he had played his final home game at Camden Yards.
With top first-base prospect Ryan Mountcastle set to graduate to the Majors this season, the questions will persist until, or unless, he regains his former All-Star form. Davis said Monday the club recommended working with a private hitting instructor this winter, but that the front office “basically left it in my hands” how he prepares for 2020.
“We’re not naive to what lies ahead. I know my time here is limited,” Davis said. “We want to make the most of it, but we also want to be proactive in the things we’re involved in now and the things we’ll be involved in post-baseball. I won’t be a baseball player forever. This is something I can do whether I’m playing or not.”
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.