Sleepless nights are almost always the product of either misery or excitement.
Arizona Diamondbacks’ third baseman Matt Davidson had the latter to blame for his sleepless Saturday, the eve of his major league debut.
“I didn’t sleep at all last night,” Davidson explained to reporters gathered around his newly-furnished locker in the Diamondbacks clubhouse Sunday, “I had an early flight this morning, got told after (Saturday’s Triple-A Reno) game, and — yeah, just trying to take it in right now.”
The 22-year-old got the call-up after the Diamondbacks placed third baseman Eric Chavez on the 15-day disabled list for the second time of the 2013 season, this time citing injuries in his left knee and right hip. He is ranked the system’s No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com, as a former first-round draft pick with significant power upside and above-average athleticism.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said before Sunday’s game against the New York Mets. “We’ve known that for a while.”
Drafted out of a high school that was just four hours from Chase Field, in Yucaipa, Calif., Davidson has maneuvered his way through the Diamondbacks’ system showing a great deal of promise. But never more than this past season, when he accumulated 16 home runs, 50 extra-base hits, in 413 at-bats with Triple-A Reno, spurring his batting average to .278 and his on-base-plus-slugging percentage to .832.
Moreover, during the All-Star break, Davidson gained inclusion on the United States roster for the annual Futures Game, a minor league all-star game that pits domestic players against internationals. While there, at Citi Field in New York, Davidson garnered the game’s MVP honors after hitting a deciding go-ahead two-run home run for the U.S. team. Less than 24 hours later, the budding star, then of the Reno Aces, also won the Triple-A home run derby at the cavernous Flushing stadium.
“He’s got some pop,” Gibson said.
“He had a great Futures Game and did well in the home run derby. He’s just maturing.”
Wild as his 24 hours in the Big Apple may have been, for Davidson, the 18 or so hours which preceded — and carried into — his big league debut amounted to a haboob-like whirlwind.
Merely hours before, Davidson was suited up at the hot corner in an Aces uniform, when Reno manager Brett Butler removed him from the game in the fifth inning.
“He said, ‘Just meet me in my office after the game,'” Davidson said, recounting the previous night.
“It was definitely the longest four innings of my life.”
Not only did he face a bout of insomnia and a suspenseful wait, but he barely made it to the stadium for the National Anthem.
In his own words, “It was insane.”
And the madness didn’t end with singer Jessica Thomas’ final note Sunday.
On the final play of the first inning, outfielder Cody Ross stumbled over the first base bag, suffering an apparent immobilizing injury, which was ultimately found to be a dislocated right hip. He was lifted onto a medical cart via stretcher and driven off the field and, eventually, to the hospital.
Gibson elected to replace him in left field with his starting third baseman, Martin Prado, creating the context for Davidson — who had arrived at Chase Field less than an hour before — to make his debut, entering the game at third base.
“Honestly, it was probably the best thing,” the drowsy-looking Davidson explained of his peculiar premiere, “because I was just thrown in there, I didn’t have any time to think about anything. Of course, I was nervous, but I think I could have been a lot more nervous waiting all day to start.”
A series of gusty cuts highlighted Davidson’s first at-bat, which ended in a flyout to centerfield in the third inning. But the shaggy-haired kid got that oft-elusive first hit out of the way in his next trip to the plate, singling down the left field line.
“Getting thrown in there and getting that first at-bat and that first hit was easy — or — not easy,” the debutant said, shaking his head at his slip-up, “but, I mean, it was nice getting that.”
He’s pretty new to 20-person media circles, too.
But, just like he was able to earn his first big league hit, he got his first such scrum out of the way, anyway. And, perhaps aided by the delirium, he did it with refreshing candor.
“It’s a dream,” Davidson said, shaking his head and laughing to himself in astonishment as he reflected on the dizzying day and a half. Meanwhile, his word selection couldn’t have been more spot-on; dreaming, after all, happens with sleep, or, in Davidson’s case, sleepwalking.
“I still haven’t taken it in.”
How could you expect him to?