(Long Island Ducks)
It’s a little unusual for a minor league team to retire a player’s number. Since the minors are usually transient, the best players go to bigger and better places and not stick around. Especially in independent league ball.
So it was unique when the Long Island Ducks unveiled Justin Davies, No. 4 hanging from the scoreboard. He played in Central Islip only six years and never was a .300 hitter. He did make the All-Star game a couple of times, but it’s hardly a reason to retire a number.
“I know I wasn’t a great player,” Davies said. “I thought I was a decent player and I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. If you look at my stats, I never hit over .300. I made the All-Star Game two out of six years. You don’t see guys like that get their number retired. It was the little things I did off and on the field that got noticed. The one thing I always felt that it was a family.”
Davies wasn’t the Ducks greatest player, but he was the most beloved. Since he was from West Babylon, he was a hometown hero, who connected with the fans during his stay in Suffolk County.
And for the Ducks, that was maybe more important.
“It was Long Island embracing one its own,” Davies said. “Everyone is family. People took to me right away being a hometown people. I loved going out into a community. Going to the community and going to the hospital. And even after playing a three hour game, if people wanted autographs, even if it was 20 or 30 people, I made sure I could sign as many as I could.”
Davies was the center fielder for the Ducks’ 2004 Championship. He was named MVP of the series, batting .385 and delivered walk-off hits in Games 1 and 2.
And that was the highlight of Davies career and you could see why he kept coming back to Long Island.
“I wish I did say people were banging down my doors but they weren’t,” he said. “I loved playing in my back yard. I knew I wasn’t going to the Yankees or Mets because I didn’t have size. My numbers weren’t there. This was my big leagues. It was cool because every time I came out to the game, I didn’t know who I was going to see – someone I went to high school with or played baseball with – it was unique.”
So today when he had his family with him on the field with him, he choked up a little and enjoyed the moment.
“I was kind of speechless,” he said. “I tried to prepare myself for the day and then when I walked in and got the first class treatment for me and my family. Walking through the tunnel definitely brought back memories. When you do that for six years, it brought back chills. Being out there and hearing the kind words, it feels like yesterday.”