It was a hectic evening at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday night, but a hush fell over the sellout crowd as the hometown Flyers sunk into a first-period 2-0 deficit against the Buffalo Sabres in an NHL playoff game. Comcast-Spectacor employees were running around everywhere.
One employee, Malvern Prep alum Ben Davis, was conversing with an old acquaintance when two young women, overburdened by armfuls of posters and fan giveaways, walked hurriedly by. Davis politely excused himself, rushed over to a door and held it open for the two women to walk through.
A small, simple gesture, but it speaks volumes of the old-school way Davis carries himself, and how those values—entrenched first by his parents and reinforced at Malvern Prep—have made him a success at most everything he's set out to accomplish.
Davis, 34, is arguably the greatest high school baseball player to ever come out of the area, and certainly the best baseball player to come out of Malvern Prep. The 1995 Malvern graduate went on to become the second overall pick in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft by the San Diego Padres the spring of '95, and continued to play six seasons in the majors.
Now he’s back as a baseball fixture in the Philadelphia area—and Phillies fans can see him often on Comcast SportsNet’s Phillies Postgame Live with Michael Barkann. When Davis is not there, he’s sometimes heard on 610AM WIP’s morning show with Angelo Cataldi, or doing a guest bit on Comcast SportsNet’s Daily News Live, dispensing baseball wisdom.
Davis' transition from player to broadcaster has been a smooth, if predictable, one. He loves the game, can break down and communicate the nuances of baseball in a discernible way to a mass audience, possesses square-jaw movie star looks and, above all else, he’s honest.
Back to the old-school core values.
“It’s the only way to be,” said Davis, an executive sales rep for Comcast-Spectator during the day who lives in West Chester with his wife Megan, and three children, Tague, Finley and Riley. “I really love doing both things, as a sales rep and talking baseball. After my playing career was over, I was offered a few coaching and scouting positions, but my heart just wasn’t into it. I have a family and three young kids, and there wasn’t anything that was going to take me away from them. They’re my heart and soul.”
Watching Davis break down the Phillies, you wouldn’t be able to tell he has no formal training as an analyst. He’s concise in his opinions and doesn’t hold back. He’s a natural.
When Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez, a former teammate of Davis’ in Seattle, was going through tough stretch, Davis went back over Ibanez’s at-bats and noticed Ibanez was pulling off the ball early, getting his hips out too quickly in front of his swing. It's those minute details that require a trained, experienced eye.
“I want to be factual. I’m not going to take shots at guys. That’s not my style, and I didn’t like it when I thought people took shots at me during my playing career,” Davis said. “Besides, my mother always told me, if you don’t have anything nice to say, you don’t say it. I want to be able to bring the regular fan into the game and explain to them how you might see it from the dugout.”
Davis might be a rising local TV star in the Delaware Valley, but the real star, he said, is at home in West Chester. While he’s working 10- to 12-hour days with Comcast-Spectacor and Comcast SportsNet, Megan is a stay-at-home mom with three young kids. Davis would rather stand in against a 95-mile-an-hour fastball.
“Doing what I do is fun, what Megan does is the toughest job in the world, I think,” Davis said. “I can take it for a time here and there, but she’s there all day. She is something special. It's why I say I’m really blessed.”
And it's led to some priceless moments.
One of the times Davis appeared on TV, Megan was holding Riley, Davis’ youngest daughter. The two-year-old couldn’t understand what her daddy was saying, but that didn’t matter. She squirmed free from her mother, stretched out her tiny arms and hugged the flat-screen TV image of her father.
[Edited 4/28 10:40 a.m. to correct Comcast-Spectacor employees' role at the arena.]