Outfielder's middle name inspired by former All-Star hitter
By William Boor
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was Spring Training 2012 when Nick Chili Buss finally met the man with whom he shares a name.
Certainly it was an unusual setting, getting ready to stretch among several other players in Dodgers camp, but that's fitting since Chili is an unusual name. Buss' middle name was inspired by Chili Davis -- then an A's coach, who was a three-time All Star during his 19-year career, one that included seven seasons with the California Angels.
"The first time I even brought it up to him, I was in a group of like 60 other players out on the field, pre-stretch and it was a strange circumstance to meet the guy I was named after for the first time, but it was cool," said Buss, who's in Angels camp this spring. "It was a cool experience."
Buss' dad met Davis at a celebrity golf tournament and, as someone who had an affinity for odd middle names, decided he liked the name.
"He liked him as a player and he respected him," Buss said of his father's admiration for Davis.
Despite the name on the birth certificate, Buss was always referred to as "Nick" until a college roommate discovered his ID, and his middle name. Buss' University of Southern California teammates began to call him Chili.
When the Dodgers selected Buss in the eighth round of the 2008 Draft, some in the Minors referred to him as Chili, although they assumed it was simply a nickname and didn't realize it was actually on his birth certificate.
On the field, Buss -- who is comfortable with either moniker -- may be a longshot to make the Opening Day roster, but has impressed the Angels.
"His skill set is good," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He can run, can play three outfield positions. He's got a good eye at the plate, has a good idea of what he's doing in the batter's box and he's hit some balls really hard this spring."
The numbers back up Scoiscia's statement as the young outfielder had nine hits in his first 18 at-bats entering play Thursday.
The fast start is a bit unusual for Buss as he is typically a slow starter. The 29-year old has always hit better in the second half, including a .320 second-half average last year at Triple-A Reno and a .340 mark in the second half of 2014 at Triple-A Sacramento.
Buss' Major League career consists of 19 at-bats with the Dodgers in 2013, but he hopes he can parlay his early success into a strong 2016 campaign and perhaps another shot at the Majors.
"I know I've had some tough first months on occasion, but a lot of the years where I've had strong first months have been good years for me," Buss said. "Just got to get comfortable with my swing as early as possible and get it going."
William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.