Rookie Davis saw the tweets in his timeline every so often. They stood out to him because they were a little different from the typical fan tweets a professional ballplayer may see pop up on his social media platforms.They were just so -- nice.Davis didn't know Chad Gibson personally, but
Rookie Davis saw the tweets in his timeline every so often. They stood out to him because they were a little different from the typical fan tweets a professional ballplayer may see pop up on his social media platforms.
They were just so -- nice.
Davis didn't know Chad Gibson personally, but he learned a lot about him through Twitter: Chad was a lifelong Reds fan, a devoted husband to Lacy, a proud father to Chace, and, man oh man, did he love baseball.
"It didn't matter if it was Major League or Minor League," Lacy Gibson said. "We'd go on vacation to Florida, and we'd always stop at a Minor League team, just to make him happy. He didn't care how far we drove, as long as there was baseball to see."
A quick scroll through Gibson's Twitter verified his deep love for his favorite sport. His timeline consisted mostly of pictures of him and 7-year-old Chace at various ballparks. They collected batting-practice balls together. They watched games together. They obtained autographs together.
They created memories together.
As Davis navigated through his rookie season as a Reds pitcher in 2017, he took note of Chad's encouraging tweets to him. Like when he made the team out of Spring Training: "@rookdavis24 congrats man. Super excited for you. Good luck this season."
And when he was preparing for his Major League debut on April 6: "Good luck today @rookdavis24. If You get a win I'll buy @skyline for you. #GoGetThem. #KsForDays #GoReds."
The tweets continued after Davis was sent to the Minor Leagues, too. In late June, Chad, a native of Greensburg, Ind., sent a tweet to Davis that he and Chace would be attending a game that weekend in Indianapolis between the Triple-A Indians and Davis' Louisville Bats.
Davis, however, was in Arizona on a rehab assignment, and he couldn't meet the family. Next time, Davis told himself.
In September, Chad bought tickets for him and Chace to attend batting practice before a Reds game at Great American Ball Park. Davis, battling a right hip injury, intended to see the family then, but scheduling conflicts prevented them from officially meeting. Things happen over the course of a day in the life of a Major League pitcher, and free time is often fleeting.
"I wasn't able to make it over to sign," Davis recalled. "I remember seeing the tweet that morning and I remember making it a point that I wanted to find them. Unfortunately, there were other things I couldn't get out of."
Sadly, tragedy struck a week later. What started as an infection in Chad's arm turned into something much worse. On Sept. 26, 33-year-old Chad Gibson passed away.
Davis, thrown by the news, immediately asked the Reds to help him track down Lacy's number. He exchanged texts with her, facetimed with Chace, and offered what support he could.
When the season was over, Davis, who underwent right hip surgery in October, took that extension of friendship one step further. He invited the Gibson family to Redsfest and asked Chace to hang out with him as his guest throughout the day.
Dec. 2 was a day that would surely have made Chad proud. Davis took Chace on a tour of Great American Ball Park, where they walked around the clubhouse, checked out the pitcher's mound and pretended to rob home run balls in right field.
Then they were off to the Duke Energy Center for Redsfest. With both of their families following closely behind, Chace accompanied Davis during his autograph sessions and other appearances throughout the day.
"Epic," Chace said. "I can't even describe it. It was just so awesome."
This meeting was entirely Davis' idea. While fan-team interactions typically start with the club making the first overtures, this one started with Davis reaching out to the Reds to get things rolling.
"It's a great reminder of why we do this," Davis said. "If you're able to use your platform, and use even social media for in-person experience like this, I know it's something I'm never going to forget. And I hope that for [Chace] and his family, they won't either. I'm incredibly honored to have them here."
An emotional Lacy Gibson gushed about how kind the Reds have been throughout, from sending flowers to the memorial service to the special day at Redsfest.
"It shows there are still nice people and there's still a bright spot to every day," Lacy said. "People can just be nice, for no reason."
The Gibson family wore matching T-shirts to Redsfest. On the front was a depiction of a man with a thick beard -- Chad's signature look -- and on the back were these words: "Love is the most important, but baseball is pretty good too." -- Yogi Berra. In memory of Chad Gibson 1984-2017.
Looking around the scene at Redsfest, Lacy noted how much her husband would have loved this.
"It's been unreal," she said. "My husband was such a huge fan. I know it was so hard to lose him, but I know he kind of orchestrated some of this, you know? There has to be something."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.