On Feb. 6, ESPN broadcaster Rece Davis made one of his first trips to Princeton as a commentator, getting the chance to cover the Tigers and Penn Quakers' face-off on the basketball court. Later on this year, Rece will add to the many trips he has taken as a parent to watch the Tigers square off in their baseball home opener against the Harvard Crimson and to cheer on his son, sophomore outfielder Chris Davis.
Rece Davis, the host of College GameDay, is no stranger to big games and even bigger sports personalities. Covering everything from the current Clemson and Alabama dynasties to Michael Jordan’s epic final years in the NBA and meeting some of the greatest faces of sports — from Lou Holtz to Richard “Digger” Phelps — Rece experiences college and professional sports in ways of which the average fan can only dream.
Yet to Rece, all of that pales in comparison to watching his son play baseball for the Tigers. When asked about the opportunity to watch his son play, Rece said that “[he and the rest of the Davis family] are willing to move heaven and Earth to get to one of Rece’s games.” He added “being up in the stadium as a parent, living and dying with every pitch of the game — it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Chris Davis ’20 of Wilson College has been raised with a unique perspective, being able to see both sides of his dad. On the one hand is the man who worked his way up from local radio in Alabama to what’s now the biggest sports news organization in the world, and on the other is a father who Chris says has “always been the one willing to throw me batting practice and hit me fly balls.” Playing three varsity sports in high school — football, basketball and baseball — Chris believes he owes part of his decision to choose baseball to experiences with his father.
“I think part of [choosing baseball] has to do with, you know . . . my dad covers mainly football and basketball, so baseball was the time where he was around most,” he said. “It was something we were able to bond over, him being able to come to all of my games, and we have such a strong relationship to begin with; I think being him being there supporting me all the time at baseball games really fostered my love for baseball.” Now as a Division I athlete, Chris is able to share those same experiences with his dad.
When asked about the University’s unique outlook on sports, both alluded to the opportunity it provides that other schools — some with sports programs much more prestigious than Princeton’s — cannot offer: the chance to compete at an elite level both on the field and in the classroom. Rece praised the student athletes at the University during his time on campus, noting the “very demanding schedule.”
“It’s an extreme challenge to do both [education and athletics] at such a good competitive level and it’s very impressive to see these young men and women being able to thrive in both environments,” Rece said.
For Chris, the idea of competition has manifested itself in new ways since coming to Princeton.
“I think that in a lot of ways, Princeton has helped me grow my understanding of competition,” he explained. “You’ve got some of the best and brightest people here and, you know, sometimes it’s a common thing to say ‘I’m competing against myself,’ and there is some merit to that. But the fact of the matter is that you are not just competing against yourself if it’s for a spot on a professional baseball team or for a Rhodes scholarship or for research grant money. There [is] a ridiculously talented pool of people trying to achieve the same goal.”
For his job as an announcer, Rece often travels from college to college — and he’s come to learn the importance of preparation and the ability to work on the road. Similarly, Chris is now embarking on the experience of balancing school work and travel for games. Chris spoke about some of the challenges weekend road games present. The Tigers will be playing every weekend on the road to start their season, in addition to having an extended road trip across the mid-Atlantic over spring break. He said that a typical weekend schedule might include leaving Thursday, with games Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and returning home the night before classes start for the next week — only to do it all again the next weekend. He added that this often creates a class scheduling issue, forcing him and his teammates to schedule as many as five classes in one day, unlike non-athletes.
Another part of the general routine: working on the bus. Despite the apparent challenges, he ascribed a certain appeal to them.
“It’s funny when you have guys that are in the same class that may all be reading the same book on the bus, or you may be writing a paper and, you know, some of the guys behind you are also writing the same paper. You’re going to be on the bus for 12 hours, so you have to do work on the bus, but at the same time, you can’t do work for 12 hours straight.”
“I think that is a bit of an excuse to try and say that you cannot do both at an elite level,” said Rece. “Education is not just learning life lessons; it’s also about learning how to compete. All programs — and all students — should aspire to win.”
Chris agreed. “I want to play my sport professionally,“ he said. “And being able to understand that it’s okay that your sport doesn’t have to take a backseat to the academics. They can both be very important they can both work together, and you can keep your professional hopes in the front of your mind.”
After missing most of last year’s season due to an injury, Chris is excited to start the upcoming season. The sophomore outfielder — one of only two lefty batters on the team — spent his summer returning to baseball form by playing for the Bristol Blues, a member of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League based in Connecticut about 30 minutes from his hometown.
Coming off of a season where the team finished with a 7–13 conference record, Chris believes the biggest change this year has been the attitude of the team.
“I think that the difference with this season is that we are not just going to games to show up,” he said. “We are going in there to win. We think we can win we think we are just as good as anybody and we can beat anybody we face.” Chris even alluded to the theme of this season; “The Revenge Tour” will feature a team that is hungry to re-stake its claim at the top of the Ivy League, and, according to Chris, will be ready to “trust . . . that [it] can get it done and [have] that relentlessness on offense.”
The road ahead, at least on paper, looks daunting for the Tigers, who are picked to finish 7th in the league according to . They open their season with nearly a month of road games that features projected Colonial Conference champion UNC-Wilmington and perennial SEC powerhouse South Carolina. And, of course, the Tigers face the gauntlet of Ivy League play, which for the first time will feature all eight teams playing each other three times over the course of the season.
Both father and son have been able to experience and take in the great moments each can offer the other. Chris recalled a special moment with his dad at College GameDay last season, when he and Rece watched from the endzone of Death Valley as the Clemson football team stormed down their iconic hill onto the field for a primetime showdown with Louisville. As for Rece, he fondly remembered last season when he and the Davis family made their way to Durham, NC and College Park, MD to watch Chris play in his inaugural games as a Tiger. To both of them, sports is a chance to take in the moments together and to find opportunities to share in a common passion that has hugely impacted both of their lives. For both, there is no current greater sports passion than the one for Princeton Baseball, whose season — fortunately for everyone — is just a few short weeks away.