DREAM COME TRUE: Former South Point star enjoys return home at second-highest level of professional baseball

By Richard Walker

For much of the country, the COVID-19 pandemic altered lives.

Add on another year of uncertainty for former South Point High School baseball star Garrett Davila, whose return to baseball following major surgery was postponed because of the pandemic.

Garrett Davila fires a pitch for the Charlotte Knights at Charlotte’s Truist Field earlier this season. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights]

However, as Garrett Davila would attest, fate can sometimes intervene in the most positive of ways.

For Garrett Davila, a 2015 South Point High graduate, re-learning how to throw a baseball and continuing a pursuit of his major league dream has given him a chance for an unexpected homecoming.

A fourth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2015 – the second-highest selection in Gaston County history – he was considered a top prospect in the Royals’ organization.

But after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left elbow on April 5, 2019 – more commonly called “Tommy John” surgery – Garrett Davila was on his way to a baseball return during spring training in 2020.

Then the pandemic that would shut down or limit all or parts of daily activities for nearly three years sent Garrett Davila home in mid-March with lots of uncertainty.

“I went home for COVID and took some time off and we didn’t know when we’d play again since the minor leagues were in limbo,” Garrett Davila said. “So, basically, I just tried to stay ready.”

Like the other minor-leaguers, he didn’t get an official decision until June 30, 2020 when major league baseball announced that all minor leagues had cancelled their respective seasons and the major leagues would play a limited schedule at a handful of empty stadiums.

“Actually, the first day I was going to pitch in a game in 2020 was the day we got sent home,” Garrett Davila said. “I had been cleared officially from rehab but then we were all sent home.
“So I took a little time off and my dad and I started working together because it had been so long since I’d pitched in a game.”

Father Oscar Davila runs the Powerhouse Dugout Batting Cages at Gastonia’s Eastridge Mall with Garrett Davila’s older sister Summer Davila and younger brother Timothy Davila.

In addition to working out as much as possible, post-surgery also meant a change in pitching delivery as Davila’s arm slot became more of a three-quarter or sidearm delivery than the overhand delivery he frequently used at South Point and in his first six years of professional baseball.

Garrett Davila also knew he was making that change while entering his seventh and final year with the Royals’ organization – and he wanted to show improvement to that organization and others that might have interest in him.

“I know in high school I was pretty good,” Garrett Davila said. “But in the pros, I wasn’t that good prior to COVID. The numbers say I was decent but the numbers weren’t going to allow me to progress in my career.”

Garrett Davila started 51 of the 64 games in the first three years of his career with a 22-15 record and a 2018 Class A South Atlantic League championship with Lexington.

After the elbow surgery, he pitched in relief in all 34 games for two Kansas City Royals farm teams in the 2021 season ith a 6-2 record, four saves and 3.43 ERA.

“I finished in ’21 with (Class AA) Northwest Arkansas and my agent talked to them (Royals) about coming back but it was probably for the best that I go my way and they go their way,” Davila said of leaving the Kansas City organization through free agency.

The Chicago White Sox offered a non-roster invitation to their 2022 spring training that Davila would accept.

Once there, Davila split time as a starter and reliever for current Charlotte Knights manager Justin Jirschele with Class AA Birmingham and finished with a 6-5 record and 4.97 ERA in 29 appearances (11 starts).

“They saw me and liked what they saw,” Garrett Davila said of the White Sox. “I also had a lot of connections with the organization from the Kansas City Royals.”

This season, Garrett Davila started the year back in Birmingham but was promoted to the Class AAA Charlotte Knights nine days into the season.

“The first time I got called up, I was really pumped just because it was my first time in Triple-A and I’m one step away from the big leagues,” he said. “But being close to home is like a dream come true for a minor leaguer.”

That dream got deferred twice as Garrett Davila was sent back to Birmingham two times in April before returning to Charlotte for good on May 20.

“There’s ton of transactions,” said Garrett Davila, who went 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in six appearances (four starts) for Birmingham and is 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 appearances (eight starts) for Charlotte after picking up a victory in Saturday’s 7-2 win over Louisville.

Now here, he’s living in Belmont with his wife as they expect their first child; Mackayla Starkey, a 2015 East Gaston High graduate where she played girls basketball, is due on Aug. 21.

“It’s certainly something special to be here and I’m just trying to keep pitching well,” Garrett Davila said.