OAKLAND – There will come a day in this opening series against the Angels when Rajai Davis won’t be the A’s leadoff hitter.
The center fielder is grateful that for Monday, at least, he’s the man at the top of the lineup.
The A’s are honoring Rickey Henderson, who is not only the consensus best leadoff hitter in baseball history but an idol of Davis’ by naming the playing surface “Rickey Henderson Field.”
Rickey Henderson on Rajai Davis leading off for #Athletics this year: pic.twitter.com/2wbssDnZAW
— John Hickey (@JHickey3) April 4, 2017
“It’s great that I’m here to be leading off on the night they’re naming the field after the greatest leadoff hitter ever,” Davis said. “Opening day is always special, but this makes it that much more so.”
Henderson, named a Special Assistant to A’s president Dave Kaval during the off-season has been increasingly more around the A’s in the last few seasons. During Davis’ first tour of duty from 2008-10, that wasn’t always the case.
So this spring, during the week plus Henderson was in the A’s camp, Davis made it a point to talk with him every day, picking his brain on everything from playing the outfield, to looking at pitches to timing stolen bases and reading pitchers.
“Every day we talked about something,” Davis said. “I’m still trying to learn and what better teacher is there. He’s great at giving advice, and there isn’t much he hasn’t seen. He’s very open about helping, and it’s great that he’s going to be here more now.
“My first time around, we talked, but there weren’t that many opportunities, so I wasn’t able to take full advantage. Not like now. I’ve got a lot to learn from him.”
Manager Bob Melvin had right fielder Matt Joyce leading off multiple times this spring, including Saturday’s spring finale. He said he’d thought about doing that for the opener, too, but ultimately he liked Davis better for the opener with Ricky Nolasco pitching for the Angels.
And with the big pre-game “it speaks well that Rickey Henderson, his idol,” is the man being honored.