Eric Davis meets with Make-A-Wish kids

Reds Hall of Famer shares All-Star Game memories, signs autographs

Eric Davis meets with Make-A-Wish kids

CINCINNATI -- At exactly the same time as Billy Hamilton was breaking one of Eric Davis' Reds franchise records -- most stolen bases (42 in 1986) by the All-Star break -- Davis was still having an impact right before a Midsummer Classic.

It was Saturday night inside the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, and Davis was devoting his time to meeting with four boys at Major League Baseball's Make-A-Wish Reception, an annual community event that leads to priceless fun during All-Star Week.

The courageous guests of honor were Carson Chapman, 15, of Murray, Ky.; Nathan Michaels, 15, of Springfield, Neb.; Riley Reisner, 12, of Woodland Hills, Calif.; and Christopher Roddy, 15, of Glen Rock, N.J. Each boy has been thrown a tough medical curve in life, and each wished to travel to Cincinnati for the Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders on Monday and the 86th All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile on Tuesday.

"I don't think I have enough time to express how important it is for me," Davis said after chatting with the boys, signing autographs and posing for pictures. "Any time I get a chance to be able to help someone fulfill their dreams or somewhat have an opportunity to see some things in life that otherwise they wouldn't be able to do, I'm more than willing to help them do that."

The Reds Hall of Famer and 17-year Major League veteran can relate more than most. During Game 4 of the 1990 World Series, he dived for a ball and sustained a lacerated kidney, a serious injury at the time. In 1997, while with Baltimore, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and became an inspiration to many as he returned to the Orioles while undergoing chemotherapy, helping the club to 98 wins and two playoff rounds.

"I've been a fan of the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a long time," said Davis, 53. "I see the joy it brings to kids, male and female, so any time they're in my presence and I have a chance to partake in it, then I'm always going to do that.

"If it just makes one person smile than it was all worth the while."

They smiled, all right.

"My wish was to come to this All-Star Game. Oh man, I couldn't have ever anticipated what this entailed -- this is awesome," said Chapman, who, despite battling leukemia, just pitched a complete game in an American Legion state tournament in Kentucky on Friday.

"This is a way to get this week started. I've been looking forward to this. I'm such a big baseball fan, and to get this opportunity through the Make-A-Wish Foundation is truly humbling, and I thank God every day for the people at Make-A-Wish and who make this happen."

There was baseball royalty in attendance, too. Vera Clemente -- MLB's goodwill ambassador and Roberto's widow -- was there, as was Sharon Robinson, MLB's director of educational programming and daughter of Jackie Robinson.

There were actually two former All-Stars and former Reds at the Make-A-Wish event -- the other was Jeffrey Hammonds. A 2000 All-Star while with Colorado, Hammonds had been Davis' teammate on the '97 Orioles. Hammonds is now a special assistant for player program development at the MLB Players Association, and he was planning to be at this event when he noticed a familiar face.

"I walked by the players' hotel, and I happened to see one of my ol' dogs, and I said, 'Come on, take a walk with me,'" Hammonds said of Davis. "He's good. He's always been very community-oriented, and involved in the Players Trust with our union. This cause just makes it all worthwhile."

Davis stole 80 bases for the Reds in 1986 as a breakout five-tool player, and that included the record 42 by the break. Hamilton just stole his 43rd and 44th bases on Saturday, taking over that title. But for Davis, it kept getting better. He became an All-Star for the Reds in 1987 and '89. What did that mean to him then?

"Just to say that you are at the epitome of your game, and to be able to play against so many guys in the American League that we didn't get to see like we do now," Davis said. "Getting in the locker room with guys I idolized and saw for years, and then get on the same field with some of those guys, it was just breathtaking."

The National League usually won the All-Star Games in those days. He led off in that 1987 Midsummer Classic in Oakland and said there was certain pressure to win. They did, 2-0.

"It was big back then," Davis said. "When I walked into that clubhouse in Oakland, it was like, 'Yeah, we having fun, but we gotta whoop [them].' So I was like, 'OK, this really means something.'"

His best All-Star memory?

"The most exciting one was probably the one when Bo [Jackson] led off the game in Anaheim [in 1989] and hit the home run. People were asking me why I didn't catch it, and I said, 'If I'd have been in a helicopter, I'd have caught it.'"

During the All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile in Cincinnati on Tuesday, July 14, fans can once again visit MLB.com to submit their choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. Voting exclusively at MLB.com, online and via their mobile devices in the 2015 All-Star Game MVP Vote presented by Chevrolet, the fans' collective voice will represent 20 percent of the overall vote that determines the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.

MLB.TV Premium subscribers will be able to live stream the All-Star Game via MLB.TV through FOX's participating video providers. Access will be available across more than 400 supported MLB.TV platforms, including the award-winning MLB.com At Bat app. MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities, including the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders, part of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day on Monday, July 13. The Derby will feature a new format with brackets and timed rounds and will be broadcast live by ESPN and MLB.com beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

The 86th Midsummer Classic will be televised nationally by FOX Sports (coverage begins 7 p.m. ET), in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.