Everybody hurts. Even a major leaguer like the Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis. It takes someone special to lift them up. Someone like 9-year-old Boston Red Sox fan Henry Frasca.
Chris got used to putting the hurt on his rivals, leading the majors in home runs in 2013 and 2015. By 2018, though, he was living with the pain of finishing with the worst strikeout and slugging percentages in the league and decided to open up about his struggles to Sports Illustrated.
Henry read the story and remembered it when Chris’s hitless streak reached a record 54 at-bats early this season. Though a die-hard Boston fan, Henry lives and breathes all things baseball, playing for two teams and poring over the MLB At Bat app. “I knew he was too good a player for this,” Henry said. “I wanted to see if I could help.”
So, he jotted down “random thoughts that happen to occur to me at a good time” to give to Chris before an Orioles game at Fenway Park in April. Henry got this close to the Orioles’ dugout before a security guard stopped him.
“He said, ‘You can’t be here,’ which was true,” Henry said. He then told the guard about the letter. The guard said Chris wasn’t there. “Then I asked if I could give it to a coach. Eventually, he gave in.”
The exchange was within earshot of Orioles field coordinator Tim Cossins, who accepted the note and read it: “The way you play baseball has nothing to do with how good a person you are. Also, you are incredible. You played in the MLB for a long time, and everyone goes through a slump. Don’t give up. We’re rooting for you.”
Tim passed it to Chris, who “got a little choked up. But it picked me up and carried me into the game, which was fun for the first time in the season.” Chris broke the slump on his first at-bat with a two-run single, then added two doubles in a 9-5 victory for Baltimore. At the time, Henry wasn’t sure that Chris had received the note, “but it was too big of a coincidence.”
“I don’t NOT credit the letter for breaking the streak,” Chris said. “There was something bigger than me or Henry going on.”
It was only fitting, then, that the note became a lasting inspiration. Chris at first tucked it into a small Bible he carries, then took it home for safekeeping. Only months later did Henry’s father, Gabriel, contact the Orioles, curious about the letter’s fate. A relieved public relations staff said they had hoped to find Henry because Chris wanted to say thanks personally.
So, when the Orioles returned to Fenway in August, Henry joined Chris in his pregame routine. Henry played the caroms off the Green Monster − “which is really tricky” − and earned a standing ovation when he caught a fly ball, the force of which knocked him over.
“I was in shock because not everybody gets to meet a whole major league baseball team,” Henry said. “My plan didn’t go farther than writing the note and hoping he got a hit.”
Chris’s struggles this season again mirrored those of the Orioles, who finished last in the AL East. But for the third straight year, he was Baltimore’s nominee for the league’s sportsmanship and community service award, named for Roberto Clemente.
“We’ve been given a great platform to help others,” he said. “You can’t always control what goes on in the field, but you can control how you treat people and what you give back to the community.”
Though the Clemente Award honors a role model, Chris quickly deflects to his own mentor. “It was comforting in the moment to know that even a kid could notice it’s about so much more than baseball,” Chris said, also praising Henry for his relentless spirit in delivering it. “Not a lot of kids would have the courage to do that, and I’m glad (he) did.”