New Hope's Wells Davis hits homer in honor of his late grandfather

 

New Hope High School grad Wells Davis, a senior at South Alabama, launches a monster two-run homer Wednesday night against Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field. It came on a night when Davis was remembering his late grandfather, Arty Lee Davis, also known as “The Mayor of Dudy Noble.”

New Hope High School grad Wells Davis, a senior at South Alabama, launches a monster two-run homer Wednesday night against Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field. It came on a night when Davis was remembering his late grandfather, Arty Lee Davis, also known as “The Mayor of Dudy Noble.”
Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to the Dispatch

 

Wells Davis warms up with infield practice prior to Wednesday night’s game at Dudy Noble.

Wells Davis warms up with infield practice prior to Wednesday night’s game at Dudy Noble.
Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to the Dispatch

 

 

Ben Portnoy

 

 

Pasted on the wall in the right-center gap at Dudy Noble Field are three numbers. 

 

To the left is a massive red "11" commemorating the 11 Southeastern Conference championships Mississippi State has won. 

 

On the right is a similarly marked "72" honoring the 72 All-Americans MSU has boasted in its 134-year history. 

 

In between the 11 and 72 is a white 380 marker designating the 380 feet between home plate and the wall. 

 

For over 30 years, that's where Artis "Arty" Lee Davis, or "The Mayor of Dudy Noble," backed up his trailer. 

 

Wednesday night, Wells Davis, a New Hope High School alum and first baseman on the South Alabama baseball team, visited his grandfather's old stomping grounds during a 7-5 MSU victory. 

 

While the result was disheartening, it didn't matter so much as the moment. For Davis, it was an ode to Arty. 

 

A Columbus native, Davis' ties to the area run deep. His father, Lee, played four years of football at MSU, while his mother, Bobbie Pearson, was on the women's basketball team. 

 

Both were in attendance Wednesday night. 

 

"I always have family and friends drive four hours to watch me play so it's nice for them to drive 30 minutes and watch me play," Davis said. 

 

On the diamond, he had his chances in the batter's box. 

 

Davis came to bat with the bases loaded in the first inning. A pop-up to the shortstop ended that opportunity. 

 

In the third inning he skied a ball to center field, short of the wall. Another out. 

 

A strikeout followed in the sixth. 

 

Then came the eighth inning. 

 

Trailing 7-3, the Jaguars were in dire need of offense. Enter Davis. 

 

Full count in tow, he cocked back his left-handed swing. 

 

With a shift from back foot to front, Davis smoked a two-run home run down the right field line to bring the Jaguars within two runs. 

 

"He (MSU pitcher Riley Self) back-doored me earlier and struck me out and right then he went in with a cutter and I just got my hands to it," he said. "It was good to just be short with a 3-2 count and get one out."  

 

The homer was encouraging, sure. Davis will be the first to tell you he has struggled at the plate this season -- his .207 batting average is evidence of that. 

 

But relief was far from the only feeling he described. 

 

As Davis watched the ball soar into the Starkville night, his skin started to crawl. Chills. 

 

"I felt him with me," Davis said of his late grandfather. "I wish he was here, but I know he's here with me and it's just really special." 

 

It's been nearly five months since Arty Davis passed away.  

 

The grassy patch where his trailer used to sit has been converted to modern day stadium seating. 

 

And while his spot is no more, The Mayor of Dudy Noble lived on Wednesday night. 

 

Between the lines, Wells carried on his legacy. In the stands, the honor belonged to Arty's wife, Patricia. 

 

Looking on as her grandson belted one last long ball under the luminescent glow of stadium lights, Patricia Davis sat in a familiar spot -- just above the 380 sign in right center. 

 

"Once I got out there in the field I could see her wearing her red Jags shirt," Wells Davis said. "And it just put a smile on my face." 

 

 

Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch.

 

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