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H.S. Confidential: Sports is a Davis Family Affair

April 21, 2006
By Kiel McLaughlin

And it's a ground ball to short! The pint-sized infielder scoops up the bouncer and shoots it to his brother at first base for the out. The left-hander tosses the ball home to his father and gets ready for another throw.

Neal Davis
Catonsville's Neal Davis is the 104th ranked prospect in the nation according to Baseball America.
Meanwhile, Mom stands in the wings, smiling and laughing, waiting to take the boys over to the courts to knock around the tennis ball or shoot some hoops. Meet the Davis family of Catonsville. For them, sports is a family affair.

"We didn't really have a lot of money and that's what we did," said Debbie Davis, who played basketball, tennis and softball at Seton High School. "We'd go to the courts and play basketball or up to the diamond and hit balls. We'd go shag golf balls. It was our form of entertainment."

Ten years later, Steve and Debbie Davis are the proud parents of a pair of star pitchers. Elder son, Justin, was named All-County in both 2001 and 2002 and Catonsville Times Athlete of the Year in 2002. Currently he pitches for Mt. St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, MD. Younger brother Neal, currently playing at Catonsville High School, is the 104th ranked prospect in the nation according to Baseball America. He has signed to pitch next spring for the University of Virginia.

Growing up, Neal spent his time playing baseball and basketball with his brother.

"Justin was always someone I could look up to. From a sports standpoint, he set the bar high for me," said the 6-foot-5 Davis. "We would always go out together and work on our game, trying to make each other better."

Last spring Neal Davis burst onto the scene, posting a 7-2 record with a 0.96 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings. During the Comets' postseason run, Maryland Orioles coach and Baltimore Orioles' scout Dean Albany saw Davis throw and signed him on the spot to pitch for his summer ball team.

Over the summer, the lanky southpaw was noticed by college and pro clubs at the East Coast Professional showcase. With scouts huddled around their radar guns charting each one of his pitches, Davis jumped to the top of prospect boards. He is considered by some to be Maryland's No. 1 catch.

Ever since Davis made it to the top of the ranks, collegiate coaches, including those at a number of ACC schools, have been wooing him. Amid the circus, Davis turned to his family.

"I let him know that there would be a lot of people coming after him since he'd been playing so well," brother Justin said. "I told him to take a step back and keep it all in perspective or it would become overwhelming and he'd get eaten up by it. I didn't want him to feel influenced by anybody but himself and to go with what he wanted to do."

Despite urging from his parents to don a Georgia Tech or Notre Dame cap, Neal chose Virginia. He said he felt comfortable with the players on his visit.

"They were closer to home and the ACC is a great conference to play in, it's one of the best in the country, and of course it's a great education," Davis said. "I fit in really well with the players down there. Also, I really liked the coaches."

Although the recruiting circus has folded its tents, another show will roll into town this spring, the MLB Amateur Draft.

A handful of Baltimore pitchers have been selected in the last few years, including the Philadelphia Phillies' Gavin Floyd (Mount St. Joseph), the Baltimore Orioles' Brandon Erbe (McDonogh) and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Steve Johnson (St. Paul's).

When looking toward the draft, the elder Davis is happy with his son's position.

"Everybody we've talked to, all the scouts have said he is in an ideal situation right now," said Steve Davis, who played baseball, basketball and football for Catonsville High School. " He knows he's going to go to one of the best schools in the country. Then he gets to sit back and wait to see where a team wants to take him and what they want to offer him. He is in a win-win situation."

Even though Neal looks forward to pitching for the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, he won't shy away from signing with a pro team if the right offer is on the table.

And so the waiting game begins, and the Davis family isn't in a hurry. They are happy to sit back and see what comes their way. Meanwhile they pass the time playing cards, doing crossword puzzles, and having fun as a family.

 Issue 1.1: April 27, 2006