CLEVELAND – It all happened in the blink of an eye.
Aroldis Chapman fired a 97.1-mph fastball, Rajai Davis launched a 101.5-mph home run and the score of Game 7 leveled at 7-7.
Sound barriers were broken as the feverish home crowd turned from demoralized to ecstatic within moments of arguably the greatest play of the 2017 campaign, the magical two-run blast off the video camera in left field that had LeBron James cheering in jubilation.
“I definitely have a story to tell for the rest of my life to my kids,” said Davis. “We left everything on the field. We gave it our all. We wanted to win as bad as Chicago wanted to win. Unfortunately, somebody had to lose in order for somebody to win. We just came up short, just that much shorter. That happens, I suppose.”
Despite the drastic shift in momentum, the Cubs were able to fight back and beat the Indians, 8-7. The victory gave them their first World Series title since 1908, the longest drought in all of baseball.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over that. I continue to think about that night,” Davis said. “It’s something I suppose that keeps me going now, that moment of doing something that special at the highest level against the best players in the league on the biggest stage of the World Series. It’s something that I always want to remember. It helps my morale and it helps the positive outlook.”
Nearly seven months later, Davis finds himself in the opposing dugout as a member of the Oakland Athletics, the team that signed him to a one-year contract worth $6-million. His strong bond with manager Terry Francona and the Tribe will remain forever, even if it only lasted one year.
“For a guy that spent one year here, he had that personality that was kind of infectious and certainly his energy on the field, and then that home run he hit,” said Francona. “It just seems like people will talk about that I’m sure for a long time. I hope whoever’s here will give him a really nice welcome back. And then I hope he strikes out four times.”
Davis slashed .249/.306/.388 with 23 doubles, 12 home runs and a career-high 43 stolen bases in 134 games with Cleveland in 2016. His durability to stay off the disabled list and flexibility to play all three outfield positions made him a perfect fit for an outfield rotation chock full of platoons.
“There was a reason we wanted him last year,” Francona said. “He ignited us on the bases, he played all the outfield positions (and) he did a really good job for us.”
Oakland manager Bob Melvin listed Davis as his leadoff hitter in center field on Monday. As the first batter of the ballgame, the 36-year-old will likely receive a warm reception prior to Carlos Carrasco’s first pitch.
“I’ve definitely been prepared for coming to Cleveland,” said Davis. “Definitely looking forward to it. I think I’m ready for it, but we’ll see.”
Not only did Davis produce the final memory of the 2016 campaign, but he also became the last player in Indians history to sport the number 20 on his jersey. The numeration was retired this past weekend as former player-manager Frank Robinson was honored with a commemorative statue in Heritage Park.
“That’s something special,” Davis said. “I didn’t know that.”
Even in the offseason, Davis and his family find themselves watching the magical moment unfold on countless occasions.
“I can’t even count. Even if I told you, I would be embarrassed,” said Davis. “Because I gotta show Jordan Michael. That’s my son. 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.
Rajai Davis put his stamp on Cleveland sports. Albeit brief, his momentous achievement on baseball’s biggest stage provides reason for why he joined Believeland – the city that never seems to give up.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.