Nightengale’s notebook: Former home run champ Khris Davis following new dream: auto mechanic

Nightengale’s notebook: Former home run champ Khris Davis following new dream: auto mechanic

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. − He once was one of the most feared power hitters in the game, hitting more home runs in a three-year span than any player in Major League Baseball.

Today, he hopes to be one of the most trusted mechanics working under the hood of your car.

Khris Davis, who hit 40 or more home runs with at least 100 RBI three consecutive years with the Oakland A’s, leading the major leagues in homers with 48 in 2018, no longer spends his days playing baseball where he earned more than $60 million in his career.

These days you can find him working on cars, changing oil and filters, fixing flat tires and perhaps one day being able to replace your gear ratios and fuel systems.

“There was no more opportunity for me in baseball,” Davis tells USA TODAY Sports, “so it took a lot of searching of who I was outside baseball. I’m still young. I didn’t want to just sit at home.”

So, Davis decided to follow his passion.


Davis, 36, attended the Arizona Automotive Institute for a year, graduated a few weeks ago and soon will be applying to car dealerships and mom-and-pop shops as a mechanic.

“It was a challenge because I didn’t even know how to change a tire before going to school,” Davis says over lunch. “I loved cars, but didn’t know what to expect. I knew I was going to be behind. I just dedicated myself to it.”

So there he went, from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m., five days a week, learning all about the inner workings of being a car mechanic.

The class opened with 15 students, and by the end, there were just four who graduated.

“I was the like old guy trying to stay young and hang around,” Davis said laughing. “The other guys were 19-and-20-year-old kids who had been working on cars since they were 5. They weren’t even old enough to drink. But it was a lot of fun. It was comforting to learn about cars. It had that nostalgia feel to it because I really got into cars when I was like 13 and I saw Fast & Furious. That movie was epic.

“I just wanted to be part of that scene where you just have like car friends and guys hang out at shows and races. There’s something to be said about having a nice car.”

Davis’ first car was a ’78 Cadillac from his grandfather, but these days has five cars in his six-car garage with a ’61 Chevy Impala, a 2019 Shelby Mustang, a Dodge Viper GTS, a Ford Raptor and a Range Rover.

“So now I’m changing my own oil, tinkering with my ’61 Impala, everything,” Davis says. “That’s my little project right now. But I just like hanging out in my garage, really.

“I’m going to get a job after the summer and family vacations are over. I’ll be an entry-level tech doing tires, oils and lubes, everything. I’d love one day to do tune-ups on street racing cars, customization, restoration, just to be part of a club and go to car shows and just enjoy that scene.”

Davis, married (Jill), with 6-year-old (Pablo) and 4-year-old (Phoenix) sons, religiously watches car shows each night with the family. He attends the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale each year with former teammate and car enthusiast Marco Estrada. He subscribes to enough car magazines to start his own library. The passion has become a family affair that when he’s driving with his sons, they’ll reel off the name of cars they see on the road.

He’s an avid car enthusiast, just like Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, so the way Davis figures it, why not get paid for something you love?

He made himself the best home-run hitter in the game, and now plans to make himself the best automotive mechanic in the city.

“I’m happy for him, sounds like me, a fellow gear-head,” Jackson, who once owned 157 cars, told USA TODAY Sports. “As a mechanic, you develop the skills you need to buy and restore cars, too. You read, you buy books, you hang around guys in the hobby.

“He’s in the right place. It’s a great hobby and it’s a love. You learn to do things yourself. My hobby became a business. You learn to buy the right car. You improve your skills with knowledge.”

Jackson and Davis met briefly before a wild-card game against the Yankees in 2018, with the two 40-home run hitters exchanging pleasantries, but never discussing cars.

“I just appreciated that he was smaller than I thought,” Davis said. “He was a smaller home-run hitter because that’s who I was like. I’m not Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. I’m kind of like a short (5-foot-11) home-run hitter.”

While Jackson hit his way into the Hall of Fame with 563 home runs, but only twice did he ever hit 40 homers in his 21-year career. “For him to do that three straight years is pretty remarkable,” Jackson said.

Davis hit 205 home runs in his first six full seasons, but hip, quadriceps and wrist injuries took its toll, and he didn’t play another major-league game after the 2021 season. He signed with the Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League in 2022 and finished the season playing for the Wild Health Genomes of the independent Atlantic League.

His baseball career was over, but even after playing eight years for the Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland and Texas Rangers, winning the 2018 home-run title and finishing eighth in the American League MVP race, and earning $67.5 million, he’s not quite ready to say good-bye forever to the sport.

Davis finished with 8 years, 39 days of major-league service, and one day would love to be a major-league coach, get on their pension program, and accrue the remaining one year, 133 days of service time to be a fully-vested 10-year player.

“Ideally, that would be a nice way to close out the chapter,”’ Davis says. “It would meet my goal of playing in the big leagues for 10 years. It just feels incomplete because I didn’t reach my goal. It would be cool to finish out like that.”

Davis would love to make an impact with the younger players, just like Rickie Weeks did for him during his career, making sure he was comfortable, playing video games and talking baseball on the road, and even buying him his first suit.

But for now, well, there’s a few cars that he needs to nurture.

“I wanted to find myself outside baseball,” Davis says, “and now I have. I wonder about guys that have less time than me, and are going through this. I never really talked to anybody about it.

“It’s tough when your done playing, but I can’t wait to get started.”

Here’s a tale of two others:

From the outfield to the kitchen

Outfielder Jason Conti, unlike Khris Davis, never was a home run hitter and never made big money in baseball.

He played parts of five seasons, winning a World Series ring with the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, playing a total of just 182 games while hitting .238 and six homers. He finished his career in 2006 playing for Triple-A Memphis, Triple-A Columbus and finally with the independent Camden Riversharks, before going overseas one last season in Italy for the Bologna Italeri.

He thought he wanted to be a lawyer after he retired, but then turned to his passion: cooking.

“Just cooking for the wife in the offseason,” Conti, 49, told USA TODAY Sports, “was something I liked doing. I cooked four to five nights a week, just trying different things, I did know it would become a profession at that time. It’s not like I went to culinary school, worked in a kitchen or anything. I just watched a lot of cooking shows.”

Conti, who began his culinary career bussing tables at Outback Steakhouse, and then cooking at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion and the Americano restaurants in the Phoenix area, is now the executive chef at The Craftsman Cocktails and Kitchen in Tempe, Ariz.

Conti will cook you a mean dish of lasagna bolognese from scratch, lemon swordfish or some Cajun or Thai dishes.

He comes in five days at week at 2 p.m. to prepare, leaves at 10 p.m. after cleaning up, and does it all again the next day.

There’s pressure in the kitchen, to be sure. The summers can be rought with the six-burner grill and a fryer going, but hey, it’s nothing like being on the ballfield.

“You can’t get out three good plates out of 10 to be successful, you better have it right all 10 dishes,” Conti says. “You can’t put out average food. But I’ll take that pressure over baseball.

“I remember 30,000 Red Sox fans screaming in my ear at Fenway. I was scared out of my mind playing in Oakland one year when someone threw a squid 20 feet from me. A squid!

“Hey, all I’m doing is cooking for people.”

From the pitcher mound to the pen

Steve Trout, 66, hasn’t thrown a pitch in the big leagues since 1989, but he’s using his left hand for something that’s more inspirational to him than the 88 games he won in his 12-year career.

He’s writing books: Motivational. Children’s. Fictional. Biographical.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” says Trout, who spends time living everywhere these days from Chicago to Australia to Bangkok to Panama Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. “I remember my brother, Paul (a writer) told me, ‘You write well, don’t worry about punctuations. People can fix that. Write what you feel.’

“So, I’ve written about life from the perspective of a ballplayer.”

Trout has written about parents yelling at umpires and their kids in Little League.

He has written about the cut-throat agent business in baseball.

He has written about bullying.

He has written about his own life.

He has written a fictional account about the first transgender player in professional baseball.

“They say writing is cathartic when you go through a breakup,” Trout says. “Well, I broke up with baseball. This is my way of talking about everything, through the pen. This is about helping others.

“I don’t write to be successful.

“I write to express my feelings.”


It was a brutal 24 hours in Southern California where legendary scout Barry Axelrod, 77, and former prized baseball prodigy Sean Burroughs, unexpectedly died in San Diego and Long Beach, respectively.

Axelrod, who represented some of the biggest stars in the game, Hall of Famers and All-Stars, lived life to its fullest. If you were ever around the man, you were in for a good time. He was fiercely loyal.

“He was one of those guys who was always a gentleman and just made the business better by being in it,” veteran agent Barry Meister said. “You know what kind of guy he was just by looking at his client base. He represented guys in his own image, leaders and examples of what a major leaguer should be. …

“He was an icon.”

Axelrod was scheduled to have his regular weekly lunch with his closest friends Thursday when he passed.

“If you’re judged by the people you hang out with, and look at the list of his friends,” Phil Nevin said, “Barry is as great a friend as I know. This hurts.”

Burroughs, who led Long Beach to consecutive Little League World Series championships in 1992-1993, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist, a 1998 first-round draft pick of the Padres, spent part of seven years in the major leagues and underwent years of substance abuse problems. He turned his life around and was working as a firefighter, security guard, a grocery store clerk and driving for Uber at night to take care of his 6-year-old son, Knox.

He was in the parking lot at Stearns Champion Park, the same place where he played as a Little League World Series hero, dropping Knox off before his game when he collapsed and died from cardiac arrest.

“He was a Long Beach legend,” Long Beach Little League president Doug Wittman said.

Around the basepaths

≻ If the Los Angeles Dodgers ask Shohei Ohtani to give up pitching and be an everyday outfielder in the future, two persons familiar with Ohtani’s thinking say he’d likely be amenable.

Ohtani obviously loves hitting, and is perhaps the best in the game to do it, but those close to him say that he doesn’t have the same passion for pitching as hitting. He does both simply because he can do it.

≻ The Houston Astros plan to give rookie manager Joe Espada plenty of time to see if they turn their season around, particularly with their pitching injuries, but two prominent players have privately expressed complaints about Espada’s communication skills in recent weeks.

If the Astros miss the postseason and decide to make a change during the winter, the two hottest managerial free agents this winter are Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox and Skip Schumaker of the Miami Marlins.

≻ The Baltimore Orioles privately realize that they are going to have to find closer for the pennant stretch with Craig Kimbrel melting down. They have their eyes on St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley, Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano and Astros reliever Ryan Pressly, if their teams become deadline sellers.

Kimbrel, signed to replace injured All-Star closer Felix Bautista, has failed to finish the ninth in four of his past five outings as a closer, blowing three saves and yielding six earned runs.

≻ The Oakland A’s are listening on offers for closer Mason Miller, who has struck out 33 of the 60 batters he has faced this season, but the asking price is so steep he’s expected to stay put.

≻ Remember when the Miami Marlins were thrilled receiving four prized outfield prospects from the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Christian Yelich in January, 2018?

Look where those prospects are now:

  • Lewis Brinson: Playing in the Mexican League
  • Isan Diaz: Playing for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League
  • Monte Harrison: Playing college football as a walk-on for Arkansas.
  • Jordan Yamamoto: The head baseball coach at Dwyer High School in Palm Beach, Fla.

≻ For those keeping score, the Marlins are in their fifth rebuild, under their 12th manager, sixth GM and third ownership in 31 years.

≻ The Dodgers are rolling, winning eight of their last nine entering Sunday but man are they killing beer sales with sales cut off in the 7th inning.

Entering Saturday, they had six consecutive games in 2:25 or less, their longest streak of quick games since 1977.

≻ The San Francisco Giants were ecstatic this spring making three key free-agent signings. That euphoria has turned into bitter disappointment among the decision-makers.

All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman, who signed a three-year, $54 million contract with two opt-outs, is hitting .205 with four homers, 14 RBI and an ugly .586 OPS, 28% lower than the league average. He also has already committed six errors with a career-low .944 fielding percentage.

All-Star outfielder/DH Jorge Soler, who signed a three-year, $42 million contract, is hitting .202 with five homers, eight RBI and a .655 OPS, and is now on the injured list.

And Cy Young winner Blake Snell, who signed a two-year, $62 million contract, is 0-3 with a 11.57 ERA, and is on the injured list, too.

≻ The Toronto Blue Jays are one of baseball’s most underachieving teams once again, sitting in last place, with manager John Schneider on the hot seat.

If the Blue Jays continue to struggle, and Schneider is the scapegoat, his replacement is expected to be Don Mattingly.

≻ The best-kept secret in baseball may be Atlanta shortstop Orlando Arcia, who is playing spectacular defense this season, and has become one of the best in the game. He also has become the best bargain in the game.

He’s in the second year of a three-year, $7.3 million contract that pays him just $2 million this year, $2 million in 2025 and a $2 million club option in 2026.

His predecessor, Dansby Swanson, is earning $26 million this year with the Cubs in the second year of a seven-year, $177 million deal.

≻ Major League Baseball sent a stern warning to teams about encouraging players to withdraw from high school and establish residency in a foreign country to become eligible to sign as international players with the freedom to sign with any team they choose.

≻ The sizzling Philadelphia Phillies are bludgeoning the opposition before most fans even get to their seats, outscoring the opposition 63-21 in first two innings.

≻ It’s hard to believe that Atlanta slugger Matt Olson has just four homers this season, one since April 7. This is the same guy who hit a franchise-record 54 homers last season, and has the most homers in baseball since 2018.

Remember, though, Olson is a slow starter. He hit .244 with five homers and 16 RBI through the first 44 games in 2022, and had nine homers in the first 32 games in 2023.

≻ The Chicago White Sox suddenly have a hot trade commodity in starter Chris Flexen, who is yielding a 1.61 ERA in his last five appearances, spanning three starts. He is earning just $1.75 million, which greatly enhances his trade value.

≻ One benefit of the automated strikezone, which is definitely coming within the next two years, will be the reduction of catcher-interference calls and injuries. Cardinals’ catcher Willson Contreras suffering a broken left arm while positioning himself too close to the plate last week. There were a Major League record 96 catcher-interference calls last season. There were 26 calls alone in April compared to only 10 in 2002, and never more than 25 from 2012-2014.

“It’s risky,’’ Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, a former catcher, told Detroit reporters. “The closer we can get to the plate, the more strikes we can grab at the bottom rail. Catchers are being evaluated and getting paid on how well they can control the bottom rail, and it’s led to more and more catcher’s-interference calls. …

“We do want our guys close enough to be impactful with the low strike,” Hinch said. “But we don’t want them walking into harm’s way. It’s a tough balance when the incentive to do it is real and the risk is extreme.”

It also should reduce the number of catchers who are positioned on one knee for framing, leading to a likely record of passed balls and wild pitches this season.

_You wonder why teams are envious of Atlanta’s Battery area with apartments, hotels, restaurants and bars?

The mixed development area generated $37 million in the first quarter without Atlanta playing a single baseball game.

≻ No pitcher has increased his velocity from a year ago more than White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech (3.6-mph), who has transitioned from starter to reliever.

And no one has had a bigger dropoff in velocity than Giants pitcher Jordan Hicks (3.5-mph), who has transitioned from a reliever to a starter, according to Sports Talk Philly’s analysis of Statcast.

Kopech’s ERA has dropped from 5.43 to 4.41 from a year ago with a strikeout rate of 13.22 compared to 9.32.

Hicks’ ERA has dropped from 3.29 to 1.59, with a strikeout rate of 7.15 compared to 11.10 of a year ago.

≻ The New York Yankees, who have started 16 different players in left field since Brett Gardner in 2021, have finally found their man in Alex Verdugo.

“He’s been everything I would have hoped for, as far as just his energy and edge every day, his ability to fit into the room and then his play on both sides of the ball,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters. “He’s been terrific.”

≻ Just how sensational of a start is Atlanta slugger Marcell Ozuna having this season? He has 12 homers and 38 RBI, the second-most RBI in franchise history this early in a season since Hank Aaron had 39 RBI in 1959.

≻ How ugly was the Cincinnati Reds’ 0-8 homestand? They had a lead that lasted only one inning in the 72 innings, hitting just .172, while opposing starters yielded a 0.72 ERA.

≻ Just how special is Pittsburgh Pirates starter Paul Skenes, who made his MLB debut Saturday? Listen to Mike Kazlausky, his former baseball coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy:

“Once his days playing professional sports are over, he wants the opportunity to come back and serve,’’ he said. “That is big to Paul Skenes, is service to his nation. … When it’s all said and done, the Pirates uniform is great, but wearing basically ‘USA’ across your front − meaning our nation’s uniform − is far more important to Paul Skenes than wearing a Pirates uniform.”

Skenes insists he wants to be an Air Force pilot when his playing career is over.

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