Eric Davis coaches hitting at Reds camp

MARIETTA-In Eric Davis’ nine-year career with the Cincinnati Reds, he batted .271, slugged 203 homers, drove in 615 runs, stole 270 bases and won three Gold Gloves.

The man could flat-out play the game of baseball, and his presence during day two of the 20th annual Reds Legends Youth Baseball Clinic Thursday at VFW Field was a thrill for all involved, especially the campers.

“Wonderful opportunity for the kids here,” said camp director and founder Mike Wagner. “They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives.”

In the camp’s 20 years, it has featured some of the biggest superstars in Reds history, including Big Red Machine first baseman Tony Perez a summer ago.

Out of all the household names in Reds lore who showed up at the camp through its two decades, Wagner said Davis may have had the biggest impact.

“What an amazing hitting instructor,” Wagner said. “He’s worked with each individual on their mechanics and everything. Couldn’t get a better hitting instructor than that, maybe the greatest I’ve ever had here.

“I was blown away with Tony Perez last year. I’m even more blown away with Eric Davis.”

Davis, a 17-year big leaguer and current minor league instructor in the Reds organization, certainly brought a perspective to hitting that couldn’t be found elsewhere.

“Swing like you’re trying to punch me in the face,” Davis told a camper in the oldest age division. Each participant took several swings off a tee by home plate while Davis analyzed and offered tips.

Wagner said he could see instant improvement in some swings.

“I see a lot of them already getting their swings straightened out,” he said. “I look for a lot of them to be hitting better for the rest of the summer.”

Davis, who retired following the 2001 season, is a bit too old for any of the campers to have seen him play in his prime.

However, the legacy of Eric Davis was not lost on anyone at the clinic.

Wagner believes that Davis might be the best player to put on a Reds uniform in the last few decades, including current Reds all-stars Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.

“There is nobody on the Reds that reminds me of Eric Davis,” Wagner said. “I said before we started (Thursday) morning, I would say in the last 30 years, he’s the most complete player. Even though Barry Larkin is in the Hall of Fame, Davis was the more complete player. He could steal bases for you, hit home runs, hit for average and a Gold Glove winner.”

To open up day two of the camp, Davis spoke to the kids and parents about the true meaning of youth sports.

“He said sports have gotten a little too serious on the youth level and we need to go back to having more fun,” Wagner said.