Queens’ Davies a hit with Long Island Ducks

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Justin Davies loves going to work.

That’s because his office is Citibank Park in Central Islip and every day 6,000 fans come out to watch him do his job as the leadoff batter and starting centerfielder for the minor league Long Island Ducks.

Hey, a 26-year-old former Queens College standout could do worse.

Davies, who was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 23rd round of the 1998 Major League draft, is one of the most popular members of the Ducks organization.

“You’ve got (Ducks mascot) QuakerJack, you’ve got (third base coach and Mets legend) Buddy (Harrelson), our owner Frank Bolton and then there’s Justin in terms of being synonymous with the Ducks,” said Ducks general manager Michael Hirsch.

Davies, a West Babylon native who lives in Ronkonkoma — about 10 minutes from his “office” — spends countless hours signing autographs for the Ducks’ ever-expanding fan base. He attended a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Bay Shore and often is a guest speaker at area schools.

“I spend a lot of time with the kids and the fans, and it’s what it’s all about and I really enjoy it,” Davies said. “You never think your name is that well-known. I don’t think of myself as a star or a celebrity.”

But according to Ducks pitching coach Dave LaPoint, a former Major League veteran who won the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982, Davies has earned his nickname of “Mayor.”

“He’s probably second to Buddy (Harrelson) in popularity on Long Island,” he said. “He’s just a really nice person and he’s fun to be around.”

Davies’ popularity is more than just his community relations work. An original member of the Ducks, Davies has steadily improved since joining the club in 2000.

His batting average is up from .217 in 2000 to .297 — he batted over .300 for the first half of the season — and was one of eight Ducks to make the Atlantic League All-Star game earlier this month.

The speedy centerfielder was among the league leaders in a number of offensive categories last year, including a league-leading 85 walks, 88 runs scored (second in the league) and he ranked fourth in stolen bases (36) and on-base percentage (.398).

Davies, who was 10th overall in the nation with a .475 batting average and led the nation with 52 stolen bases as a senior at Queens College, was again near the league leaders this season for a Ducks team that leads the Atlantic League in hitting.

“He was a nightmare for the third base dugout and the fans over there because they knew when he was hitting, the foul balls were coming their way line-drive style,” LaPoint said. “He doesn’t do that too much anymore, he gets out in front and hits the ball up front and he’s pulled quite a few balls.”

As for his play in the field?

“He goes and gets them as well as anybody. Justin just does it gracefully,” LaPoint added. “His only weakness to his game is throwing, but he’s learned from somebody to take the proper angle, and unless it goes out of the park or hits the wall he’s got a good chance of catching it.”

More important for Davies, though, is the chance to win a championship with the Ducks, who lead the North Division with a 9-2 record after finishing the first half of the season third in the division with a 32-31 mark. In the Atlantic League the winner of each half makes the playoffs.

“The All-Star game was a great experience; I loved it and had a great time playing in it and the experience of the whole thing because it was my first professional all-star game,” Davies said. “But I want to be able to go out there and jump around on top of the mound and jump on players. I’ve done it (at West Babylon High School) and that was fun. It was times I’ll never forget and if I can do that here that's even better.”

While Davies realizes that a phone call from a major league club may never happen, he hopes he gets another phone call for his next job.

“I just enjoy playing and having fun, and whatever happens happens,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to my future and I’d love to be a cop. I’ve been taking all the tests. That’s always the thing I wanted to be as a kid.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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