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Rajai Davis ready for next phase of career in MLB operations

A relentless work ethic and unwavering faith served as driving forces behind Rajai Davis's lengthy professional baseball career.

Davis will continue to lean on both as he begins a new chapter in his baseball career.

Major League Baseball announced Monday that it has added Davis to its baseball operations department. Davis has been named senior director of on-field operations.

"Super, super excited about the opportunity," said Davis, a former New London High School and UConn Avery Point standout now living in East Lyme.

Accepting the job meant that his playing career is officially over.

Selected in the 38th round of the 2001 MLB amateur draft by Pittsburgh, Davis worked his way up through the minors and made his major league debut in 2006 with the Pirates. He played for eight different teams over 14 seasons, last making an appearance with the New York Mets in 2019.

Along the way, Davis, a speedy outfielder, had a career .262 batting average with 415 stolen bases. As a member of the Cleveland Indians, he authored one of the most memorable moments in recent World Series history, blasting a game-tying home run in the eighth inning in Game 7 against the Chicago Cubs, who went on to win the 2016 title in extra innings.

Davis spent last spring training with a professional team in Mexico before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season.

"I'm actually content with what we were able to accomplish with the game, the longevity, everything really," Davis said "From 2001 ... and I played up to last year in Mexico a little bit ... 20 years playing professional ball, that was a lot. My body is definitely thankful for (retirement).

"But I'm definitely looking forward to the next phase of my career and development."

After arriving on the major league scene, Davis set a goal of playing 10 years, something he easily surpassed.

"Especially in the beginning of my career, I always believed in my faith," Davis said. "I always prayed for longevity in this game. God definitely heard my prayers. I would pray with my pastor all the time, so it was the two of us believing for one thing. It was very powerful. It worked for me and my career ... And it kept me healthy, which is the biggest part.

"If you're always getting hurt, then it's hard for a team to pick you up, unless you're that special. Obviously, I wasn't that special. I had to work a little more. It's just part of the grind of just working hard."

His passion for the game remains and will come in handy in his new job.

Davis, 40, isn't quite sure what led him to working for MLB. It started with him reaching out to friend and former major leaguer Harold Reynolds. He eventually spoke with Daniel Halem, who works for MLB as deputy commissioner, baseball administration.

"One thing led to another and I got this gig and I'm just super excited that I got another opportunity to stay in baseball," Davis said. "I especially want to stay around the players, around the coaches. Just being around baseball is a great opportunity."

"WIth this role, in some capacity, I can help make the game better. That's Major League Baseball's goal and that's part of my goal and what I expect to contribute."

Davis will have a wide range of duties and responsibilities.

His territory will be the Northeast region. He'll regularly travel to New York and Boston and have regular conversations with team management, managers, coaches and players. He'll also work with Michael Hill and Raul Ibanez, both recently appointed senior vice president on-field operations.

"I'm just getting started with everything, so I don't really know what it looks like on a day-to-day basis," Davis said. "I know what they've told me, but things can change. The more we get connected with one another and we start getting back together as a group, things will definitely speed up and get more defined."

Another appealing part of the job — Davis will start out working from home and remain in the area.

"That's the thing that's most exciting," Davis said. "Talking with a couple of the other guys that have this position and how they are doing it, they're loving it. I'm just thrilled I got this opportunity."

g.keefe@theday.com

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