Rajai is pronounced: RAHJ-ay.
It means "king" in Sanskrit. "Everyone has trouble with it," Davis says.
"All the way through school, I can count on less than one hand the number of teachers who pronounced it right the first time. There is a story and meaning behind it, though. The letters kind of came in a vision to my mother when she was pregnant with me, and she figured them out to where it spelled Rajai."
- For Davis, baseball was a sidelight. He was a point guard for his New London, Connecticut high school basketball team. But he caught the eye of Pirates' scout Charlie Sullivan. And Rajai signed with the Pirates, via Sullivan, after the team drafted him in the 38th round in 2001.
- In 2004, Davis led the Carolina League in hits and stolen bses and was fourth in on-base percentage (.388).
- In 2005, Rajai set the Altoona Curve franchise record for stolen bases, with 45.
In the spring of both 2005 and 2006, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Davis as 11th-best prospect in the Pirates organization.
But in 2007, they dropped him down to #27.
- On June 5, 2007, Rajai had his 21-game hitting streak for Indianapolis ended in the best possible way—by being called up to the Majors.
Rajai is the guy wearing the contagious smile as he wanders through the A's clubhouse before batting practice every day. He's the guy you can always count on for a "there's always tomorrow" comment after not seeing his name in the starting lineup. He's the guy who beats every other teammate out on the field to stretch. And at night's end, he's the guy who knows exactly what his inconsistent role is in Oakland—and is set on making the most of that opportunity.
"It can be difficult sitting on the bench, but I don't want it to have an effect on my attitude," Davis said. "You know, that's something I can control. In the long term, having that good attitude will help me."
While Davis's batting numbers call out for some help at the plate, the outfielder could hand some other big leaguers advice of his own—not about keeping their bat in check, but rather about having the right attidude.
"It's just nice to be up in the big leagues," he said while making the last shoelace tie on his cleats. "That's what amazes me. It's a blessing to be here, so I definitely can't complain."
His comments are refreshing—almost too much so—but don't think Davis doesn't have plans to get himself off the bench more.
"I eventually see myself as an everyday player progressively getting better who you can look at as someone who's not boastful, but rather humble," he said. "Those are what my keys to success will be.
"I expect it, and I believe it's going to happen. I don't know when, but it's all about believing." (Jane Lee/MLB.com June 2008)
Despite having played sparingly in August 2008, Davis kept his head up and his confidence did not waver a bit. In fact, the 27-year-old worked harder each day in order to be as prepared as possible for the moment, which has finally presented itself.
"I'm big on believing that God has a plan for me. He takes me down valleys and paths, but I know all of this only strengthens me," Davis said. "I've just kept a positive attitude and continued to work hard, especially with [A's hitting coach] Ty Van Burkleo and I've learned a lot.
"You have to believe that your time will come and when it comes you have to be prepared to take advantage of it. I'm taking advantage of this opportunity," Davis said.
On September 9, 2008, while with the A's, Rajai hit two triples in game in Detroit. Nobody had hit two triples in one game for Oakland since Ray Durham in 2002, also at Detroit's Comerica Park.
For three seasons in the minors, Davis's manager was Tony Beasley. Beasley says Rajai never lacked confidence, even though he was a 38th-round draft pick by the Pirates.
"He was never disrespectful, but he'd always say, 'I know I can do this,'" Beasley said. "He always believed there was a bigger force involved in his career than man."
United by their Christian faith, Beasley and Davis became friends during their time together in the Minor Leagues. After struggling in his first full season as a pro in 2002, Davis was sent back down to the Pirates' Rookie League team, where he won the Gulf Coast League batting title with a .384 average.
Davis was then assigned to the Class A team in Hickory, N.C., where he reunited with Beasley for the entire 2003 season. It wasn't until that point in Davis' development when Beasley envisioned Davis as a big league prospect.
"He was a totally different guy," Beasley said. "I don't know what clicked or what went on, but something happened where he just got it. He just took off. There was nothing where the organization felt like they had to do anything, but he promoted himself by the way he played and with his character." (Alex Espinoza-MLB.com-6/26/10)
Davis always seems to have a smile on his face. He is a good presence in the clubhouse.
2014: Davis runs the basepaths with either reckless abandon or the courage of a cat burglar, depending on your outlook. Either way, he runs them with what looks like an oven mitt on his left hand.
That's OK. He hears it all the time. He laughs about it, too.
"Yeah, it's good for baking," Davis said. "Baking on the bases."
It's a customized protective glove that keeps him from jamming a finger sliding into a bag, and it also gives him some padding over his hand and his wrist in case an infielder steps on his hand as he's sliding in. He has worn one since at least 2012 to protect his hands.
Rajai was 10 years old when he told his mother he wanted to be a Major League Baseball player. His mother did everything she could to let him chase it.
"She said you can do anything you want," he recalled. "You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. And your parents, if they say that, it's like the biggest thing in your life."
Diane Davis was a sprinter in high school, and her kids inherited her foot speed, which explains a lot about Rajai Davis today. She devoted her work to a worthy cause, spending her days working with disadvantaged kids near their home in Connecticut. It didn't allow her a lot of free time to shuttle the kids from one practice to another, but it allowed her to support them.
"(My parents) had to work a lot, so it was really tough. They worked hard to put food on the table," Rajai Davis said. "The biggest thing was to experience that work ethic. You see it in them day in and day out. If you want to eat, you've gotta work. We had chores we had to do around the house, that mom would give us. I didn't like the chores, but we still had to do them.
"Washing dishes, clean your room, make your bed, taking out the trash, cleaning, mopping the stairs. We had to sweep and mop it so that everything smelled fresh when we were done. It was no fun. We probably had the cleanest house around."
They also had the challenge of making the grades to ensure their parents, educators both, were satisfied with their progress. When they didn't, she wasn't afraid to interfere. For promising baseball player Rajai Davis, that meant leaving the high school team shortly after he joined it, a moment that remains fresh in his memory.
"I was acting up in school, and she took me off of the ninth-grade team, during baseball season," he said. "She said, 'You can't play if you're not achieving in your schoolwork. There's a consequence for it.' I learned my lesson real quick. Can't be acting up in school.
"I was more of a clown. The work was not a big deal, but more of the discipline. I was just having fun as a ninth-grader during class. It was a lesson I learned."
It took a progress report from teachers to convince her to let her son back onto the baseball team. He ended up making the varsity program soon after, he said. The rest is history. (Jason Beck - MLB.com - 5/09/15)
July 2, 2016: A cycle was not on Rajai's mind when he dusted himself off and stood at third base after a third-inning triple. That changed when third-base umpire Vic Carapazza pointed out that the Indians' outfielder was on a good pace toward history.
"The umpire said, 'You've got the hardest ones out of the way,'" Davis said after the Indians' 9-6 loss to the Blue Jays. "That's when I started thinking, 'OK, I've got a cycle going.'"
Davis hit a leadoff home run in the first inning, delivered a run-scoring triple in the third, doubled in the seventh and singled in the ninth inning. That made Davis the eighth player in Cleveland history to complete a cycle—and the first since Travis Hafner on Aug. 14, 2003, against the Twins.
"I have not hit for a cycle [before]," Davis said. "Not in Little League, not in Senior League, not in Babe Ruth, not in the Minors. Not until now, in The Show, the big leagues. It's nice." (J Bastian - MLB.com - July 2, 2016)
Rajai takes care of his feet. He calls them his "money makers". Part of his ritual is that he blow dry's them every day and makes sure they get a pedicure each month.
Rajai says his first job was at Chuck E Cheese were they made him play the mouse.
In 2008 Rajai competed in an international competition of strength in Japan. The name of the competition was "Number 1, muscular athlete championship of 2008" . He came in 5th.
A lasting memory for baseball fans near and far is relived in the Davis household often. Rajai has lost track of how many times he's seen video of his theatrical World Series Game 7 home run off of Aroldis Chapman last fall. His 2 year-old son, Jordan Michael, watches it on repeat.
"I can't even count," Davis said. "If I told you, I would be embarrassed. I gotta show Jordan Michael. He has to see it a lot of times. When we need the entertainment at the table, he wants to watch baseball, so we show him daddy's baseball."
"I don't think I've ever gotten over that," Rajai said. "I continuously think about that night. It's something I suppose keeps me going. That moment of doing something that special at this level against the best players in the league on the biggest stage in the World Series … It's something that I want to remember. I think it just helps my morale, just a positive outlook."
Davis' attitude rarely strays from positive. It's one of his many traits that endears him to teammates, coaches and fans.
"He had that personality that was kind of infectious, and certainly his energy on the field, and then that home run he hit," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Part of what's fun about baseball is people seem to remember things like that. I don't know, I guess they do that in other sports, too. But it just seems like people will talk about that, I'm sure, for a long time. (Lee - mlb.com - 5/29/17)
- June 2001: He was taken by the Pirates in the 38th round, out of Avery Point Junior College in Connecticut.
- July 31, 2007: The Giants sent P Matt Morris to the Pirates, acquiring Davis and Stephen MacFarland.
- April 20, 2008: He was designated for assignment.
- April 21, 2008: The A's claimed Rajai off waivers from the Giants.
- January 19, 2010: The A's and Davis avoided salary arbitration, agreeing on a $1.35 million salary plus incentives for 2010.
- November 17, 2010: The Blue Jays sent RHP Danny Farquhar and RHP Trystan Magnuson to the A's, acquiring Rajai.
January 18, 2011: Davis and Toronto avoided arbitration, agreeing on a two-year, $5.75 million contract. Rajai got $2.5 million in 2011 and 2012. And the Blue Jays hold a $3 million contract for 2013 with a $500,000 buyout.
On October 31, 2012: The Blue Jays resigned Rajai for $2.5 million (instead of being bought out for $500,000).
- November 1, 2013: Davis became a free agent.
- December 10, 2013: Rajai signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Tigers.
December 17, 2015: Davis signed a one-year contract for $5.25 million with the Indians.
- January 3, 2016: Rajai signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Oakland A's.
|Birth City:||Norwich, CT|
|Draft:||Pirates #38 - 2001 - Out of Avery Point JUCO (CT)|
- When the Pirates signed Davis, they scrapped his lefthanded swing, letting him develop his righthanded swing. And he became a polished hitter.
- Rajai is a capable leadoff hitter, with a willingness to take pitches, bunt, slap the ball on the ground and beat it out, even walk, but not real often. He needs to tighten up his strike zone.
Davis is known for a batter's box ritual that, at times, looks as though he is talking to his bat.
- As of the start of the 2017 season, Davis's career Major League stats were: .267 batting average, 55 home runs with 353 RBI's in 3,687 at-bats.
- Davis is an above average defensive center fielder. And he has enough arm to play right field. He gets good carry on his throws and they seem to speed up when they get to the infield. That is because he gets good backspin on the baseball.
- Rajai gets a good jump and takes good routes to the ball. If he takes the wrong route, his speed allows him to overcome his mistake.
- Rajai is a solid base-stealer. He is speedy and great at upsetting the opposition.
- "He's fearless," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said in 2007. "He wants to go. He's not one who wants to wait around, and that's part of being a good basestealer. Even when they know you're going to go, you go."
- In 2009, he stole 41 bases even though he had just over 400 plate appearances.
- When he was with the A's, Rajai was nicknamed "La Centella" or "Flash" because of his speed and base-stealing ability.
- In 2012, Davis finished second to Angels' outfielder Mike Trout in stolen bases, with 46.
- Rajai tried to create a spark for the struggling Tigers' offense on August 18, 2014, and he injured himself as a result. He developed a couple pieces of statistical history, but no offense.
Davis left the game after six innings with a bruised left thumb suffered on his third stolen base of the game and his 30th of the year. He became just the ninth Tiger since 1914 to steal three bases in a game and not score a run.
August 22, 2005: Davis's season ended when he was hit by a pitch while playing with the Altoona Curve against the Bowie BaySox. Rajai suffered a broken right hand.
April 12-29, 2011: The soreness in Rajai's right ankle put him on the D.L. First he tried to play through the injury, but with his game based on speed, that didn't work out.
August 15, 2011: Davis was on the D.L. for the rest of the season with a torn left hamstring that he sustained when he was running down the first-base line and felt something pop in his leg.
- May 10-June 4, 2013: Rajai was on the D.L. with a strained left oblique muscle.
September 27, 2014: Davis suffered a sprain around his midsection (the pubic symphysis). Rajai came out of the game after grounding out, saying he felt "kind of a shift" around his midsection as he left the batter's box.
- April 22-May2, 2017:The A's placed Davis on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring.