April 5, 2019

FULTON, Mo. --- By any standard, Darrell Davis is a nice guy, one of the truly good guys.

He's also a guy who's never at a loss for words.

If you ask him for the time, he's likely to give you the history of Stonehenge.

Then again ... never say never. Because last November, Davis received a phone call that stumped even him.

"I couldn't really believe it ... I knew it couldn't be an April Fool's joke," Davis said. "I never thought this would happen in a million years. When I was told about it, I didn't know what to say. I just went, 'Wow."

This is the wow moment --- the born and raised Fulton Hornet, who would go on to coach the school's baseball team for 31 years, was told the team's field would be renamed Darrell Davis Field this spring.

That day came Friday during a ceremony prior to the Hornets' game with Hannibal, which resulted in a 3-2 win for Fulton.

"I'm humbled and blessed," Davis told the sizable gathering of family, friends and fans. "Today isn't about Darrell Davis, it's about Fulton baseball and the passion of the baseball players who played for the Hornets. We had good athletes, a lot of good athletes.

"And I had good parents who would do anything for you. The whole town, we grew the baseball program together."

Davis, 63, is a 1974 graduate of Fulton High School, but he didn't play baseball for the Hornets. Why? The school didn't start a baseball program until 1975.

"My timing," he said, "wasn't very good."

Davis went on to baseball at William Jewell College and his 1977 team finished fifth in the NAIA National Tournament, setting a then-school record with 43 wins. 

After college, Davis tried to get a job in the Kansas City area, "but it just didn't happen. So I came back to Fulton ... Bob Fischer was the football coach and AD, and somehow I got a job."

Fischer promised Davis the baseball coaching position when it opened --- back then, the Hornets only had one baseball coach --- but first things first.

"(Fischer) said, 'Here's the deal,'" Davis recalled. "'You're going to have to be the boys tennis coach this spring, first.'"

What did Davis know about tennis?

"Zero,' he said with a laugh. "But here's the kicker --- we won the conference meet, but it sure wasn't because of anything I did."

The baseball position opened the next year and Davis would serve in that position for more than three decades, winning 365 games and leading the Hornets to three Final Fours and one state championship.

Not surprisingly, the 1990 championship team supplies his fondest memory.

"Those guys just took the bull by the horns," Davis said. "We went right through the districts, then sectionals and quarterfinals."

The Hornets became even more bullish in the Final Four, winning both the semifinal and state championship games 11-1 in five innings to finish a memorable 20-4 season.

Fulton finish third in 1996 and fourth in 2009, a team Davis called "a bunch of over-achievers."

"We really weren't very good," he said. "We'd win one game, then lose two games. Then we'd win two and lose one.

"Then when districts rolled around, we were (seeded) No. 5 --- and there were only six teams in the district. Our kids weren't real happy about that."

The Hornets "rolled" through the district, but were then staring at a 6-0 deficit in the bottom of the seventh inning of the sectional game at Duchesne.

"And with two out," Davis said, "we get a six-run rally to tie it, then we won it in the bottom of the ninth, 7-6."

Another easy and obvious highlight was coaching his son, Adam, a 2002 graduate of FHS.

"When we were out on the field," Darrell said, "I told him not to call me Dad, he was just like everybody else. And he knew that."

In addition, Davis was a fixture as Fulton's basketball coach --- racking up 338 wins in 28 years --- and he also served as athletic director for 16 years.

He left Fulton in 2011, but he's still not retired --- he serves as head basketball coach and a substitute teacher at Francis Howell North in St. Charles, and he's also landed his dream-come-true job --- an usher at St. Louis Cardinals games.

"You get to watch the Cardinals and they pay you," Davis said with a smile as wide as the Arch. "That's a good job."

This isn't the first big honor for Davis. In 2011, he joined the Missouri Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, while that 1977 William Jewell baseball team was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2017.

But those aren't any bigger than this one, Davis said. Leading up to Friday, Davis was given the option whether or not to speak at the ceremony.

"The game might start 30 minutes late," Davis said, "but heck yeah I was going to talk."

This is proof that nice guys don't always finish last. Hardly.

Sometimes, they even have a baseball field named after them.

Chris Leuckel

Loeffler's Link

Well-deserved honor: Fulton
baseball field named after Davis