Quentin Davis has retired as a professional baseball player. He’s just not ready to tell everybody, yet.
“I told my mom and I told my brothers, but I hadn’t really told anybody at home yet,”
said the speedy centerfielder. “Because, I know once I tell them I retired, I’ll be bombarded with phone calls. ‘Why did you retire? Why did you retire?’ I’m not ready to answer that yet. I’d rather just answer it face-to-face and get it over with there.”
When you’re batting .335 and having your best season in years, it might be a little difficult to explain why you’re hanging up your cleats.
While Davis may be able to keep the secret under wraps from his friends in Darlington, S.C., for a little bit longer, his absence is noticeable for the fans of the Newark Bears. Gone is arguably the club’s top hitter. It’s spark plug. It’s catalyst. A fan favorite.
Davis led the team in batting, and OPS (.838), while hitting four home runs and driving in 20 runs and stealing 18 bases in 43 games.
Despite posting eye-popping numbers, it did not deter Davis, who battled injuries throughout the year, from moving on from his playing career.
“I never really looked at my stats this year,” he said. “I didn’t think about it because I was so in and out of the lineup, so I didn’t really feel they were true stats. I didn’t really look at it much that I, yeah, I’m hitting the ball, so I just want to stay in (the lineup) or I’m getting out on top or anything like that. I just felt like the opportunity and it was the right time.”
That opportunity was joining the Bears in a coaching role. When manager Ken Oberkfell left the team due to personal reasons on July 31, third base coach Chuck Stewart was elevated to manager, leaving an opening on the coaching staff. Davis saw it as a perfect chance to transition from player to coach. He played his final game on Sunday, August 19, and by Monday, August 20, he was the team’s first base coach.
“The decision was based on the guys we had at this point,” said the new addition to Newark’s coaching staff. “An opportunity presented itself with Obie leaving. It left a hole in the coaching staff. I felt like this was right time to get out of baseball and get into coaching. And we have a bunch of younger guys that really want to play and I just saw this as an opportunity to let them get some experience playing pro ball and let me get some experience coaching.”
The former center fielder will serve the remainder of the 2012 season as first base coach and is working in the team’s player development department.
Leaving the game as a player was not an easy decision for Davis. He reached out to a couple of former major leaguers, including Oberkfell and pitching coach Ralph Citarella, for advice.
“I made the decision on my own, but I talked to everybody about it,” he said. “I picked everybody’s mind. I asked Obie how he felt when (his career) was over. I asked Ralph, and I talked to my family.”
Once the decision was made, Davis did not only make the transition from player to coach, he also had to transition from teammate to instructor.
“I just want to get comfortable in the role that I’m in,” said Davis. “I love the fact that (the players) see me as a teammate. That means they’re comfortable and they can pretty much ask me anything, but you still have to have that fine line between player and coach, and I’m kind of teetering on that.”
But his former teammates had been viewing him as more than just a player since the day he put on a Bears uniform—they saw him as a leader. It was only natural that the next step in his career would be to become a coach.
“I saw a lot of guys following my lead,” said the outfielder, who was originally drafted by the Braves in the 13th round of the 2005 MLB Draft. “You saw a lot of guys picking up on a lot of the stuff I was doing.”
In the past, Davis spent time as a coach at his alma mater, Darlington High School in South Carolina, but the Southern-born center fielder opted to remain in New Jersey following the end of his playing career.
“I love Newark,” he said. “I love the energy. I love the organization. I love the group of guys we’ve got now. I’m real comfortable here. I would love to stay in Newark for a long, long time, doing coaching.”
Part of the reason Davis has enjoyed his time in Newark is how he was embraced by the team’s ownership, its fans and the community.
Word of his retirement did not surface until the day of the game, but Davis was perfectly content with playing his final game with little fanfare and moving to the next stage of his career quietly.
However, team owners Danielle Dronet and Dr. Douglas Spiel had other ideas.
Just before the game started, Davis learned that his number 1 would be retired by the organization—one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed upon a baseball player.
“I never dreamed that in a million years,” said Davis. “It caught me off guard. It’s probably the nicest thing anybody’s ever done for me.”