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Reds great Davis motivating youths at EDI

Club Hall of Famer nurturing 'future of our game' while serving as hitting coach
Special to MLB.com

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- In an attempt to help African-American youths pursue baseball careers, former Cincinnati Reds All-Star Eric Davis is taking a different route than some of his colleagues.

Nearly three weeks after Independence Day, Davis is going the way of the patriot.

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- In an attempt to help African-American youths pursue baseball careers, former Cincinnati Reds All-Star Eric Davis is taking a different route than some of his colleagues.

Nearly three weeks after Independence Day, Davis is going the way of the patriot.

"Knowing what's at stake for the future of our game, it's very important for us to all collectively come together to get involved to create that system in America like they do in other countries," Davis said on Friday. "To show the kids in America that we still care about them and that baseball is still the No. 1 sport."

Davis is serving as a hitting coach at the Elite Development Invitational, lending the expertise and knowledge that helped him to a 2005 induction into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. Slashing .269/.359/.482 for his career, Davis hit .286 with a home run and five RBIs during the 1990 World Series, helping the Reds to a sweep over the Oakland Athletics.

Though many of his newest students were born after his final game in October 2001, they're paying attention to the wisdom the three-time Gold Glover is providing.

"It's really great to be able to work with Eric Davis because he's a former Major Leaguer, and he has a lot of tips in his brain," California infielder Osiris Johnson, who first met Davis at the Breakthrough Series in Compton, said. "I've improved my swing and my stance. I'm trying to take away as much as I possibly can."

Video: Passion and Determination at Breakthrough Series

Davis, an eighth-round pick of the Reds in 1980, can also lend his students a unique perspective on the life of a modern black baseball player, as he played in a time where the percentage of African-American players was consistently near 20 percent.

"I was in a sport when we were still black," Davis said. "To see [Jackie Robinson] and to see the great players that followed him only inspired me."

But Davis also recognizes the growing diversity of the sport among other ethnicities, as MLB has seen growth in terms of the number of Latin American and Asian players.

"Our youth in America comes in different colors, creeds, ages and everything," Davis said. "So to show the country that we're together in this sport, it's going to take these kids back to their individual cities."

Historic Dodgertown also provides a homecoming for Davis, who spent 1992 and the first half of '93 with the Dodgers.

Working with an older group than the one that stayed in Vero last week -- this section of the EBI is for high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors -- Davis hopes they can appreciate the significance that Dodgertown holds.  

"I was fortunate enough to play here for two years, so I know the significance of living in this facility," Davis said. "Knowing what it meant and having an opportunity to come back to this facility only gets me more and more excited about the kids we have here and to understand what sacred ground they're participating on."

His patriot way of thinking may be a bit unique, but Davis can only smile about what he sees as a "unification of baseball."

"Some of these friends will be friends for life," Davis said. "Some of them are gonna be Major Leaguers, some might only get to the Minor Leagues, some might only get to college. But once we're in, we're in."

Jake Elman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Vero Beach, Fla.

Cincinnati Reds