Recalling his troubled childhood, Glenn Davis builds youth refuge

FROM BROKEN HOME TO SAFE HOUSE

April 07, 1991|By Peter Schmuck

Glenn Davis can see it all so clearly now. He looks back at hi troubled boyhood and sees purpose. He looks at his charmed baseball career and sees opportunity. He looks toward the future and sees hope. He looks at it all and sees the makings of a great book, maybe a movie.

"It would beat the heck out of 'Field of Dreams,' if you knew the whole story," he says, hoping he never has to tell the whole story again.

It is a disturbing one, a story of such heartache and personal horror that Davis felt compelled to tell it over and over until the hurting stopped and the telling started to hurt the people he finally was learning how to love. He told of an adolescence so filled with frustration that he would hold a gun to his head and consider the ultimate escape. He told of a home life so painful that he eventually did escape and went off to live with a new family. The story is out because he couldn't keep it in any longer. But the message has changed.

The boy from the broken home is building a house for the next kid who has nowhere to go. The young residents of the soon-to-be-completed Carpenter's Way Ranch in Columbus, Ga., will have a dad who lives at home and a mother who understands. The Glenn Davis dream, born of his nightmarish youth, financed by his athletic talent, fueled by his Christian faith, is about to make that a reality.

Somewhere, there's a 10-year-old with a ball and bat and no one to encourage him. Glenn Davis wants to be there. Somewhere, there's a tough kid with a knife in his hand and a chip on his shoulder. Davis wants to get there ahead of the police. Somewhere, there is another Glenn Davis, sitting in the dark and imagining what the world would be like without him.

"Since I was young, I've had a desire in my heart that cried out to kids in unfortunate circumstances," Davis said. "I always felt sad for them. That was deep within me. I always said if I could help them, I would. When I got married, my wife, Teresa, also wanted to see that dream realized."

Davis has spent $300,000 of his money and raised $125,000 to make that dream come true. The boys ranch will be complete this summer. He intends to build another for girls. If this is an obsession, it is a magnificent one.

It started out as a long-term project, one that didn't figure to be complete until after Davis completed his baseball career. But baseball's salary boom has had at least one very positive side effect.

"My first concern was taking care of my family," he said. "But pretty much every year I've been in the major leagues, I've had a good year. The money started getting good. Now, I've got enough for my family. There's nothing really that I want. It doesn't take a whole lot to please me. When my market value started going up, we started researching and putting together a foundation. We had planned to do it after my career was over, but when the money started going up, we said, 'Why not do it now?' "

The Baltimore Orioles just signed Davis to a one-year contract worth $3.275 million. He will be eligible for free agency in November unless the club signs him to a multi-year deal. Estimates on what that would take range upward from $20 million for five years. Why not, indeed.

* Davis didn't know what a happy home was until he moved in with his high school baseball coach. George and Norma Davis took him in after their son, Storm, had gone off to play professional baseball with the Orioles organization. The matching last names were just a coincidence. The rest, Glenn is convinced, was not.

Glenn's real father had been a 10-year minor-leaguer who walked out of the house for good when his son was 7. His mother wanted Glenn to be a preacher, not a power hitter, and did everything she could to discourage his interest in baseball.

He went to church and memorized his Bible verses, but when he wasn't reading about heaven, he was busy raising hell. It wasn't hard to find trouble on the redneck side of Jacksonville, Fla., especially if you were looking for it. Happiness was another story.

Davis has been unflinchingly honest about his troubled childhood. He told the whole story to Sports Illustrated a few years ago. The result was a gut-wrenching profile of teen anguish that Davis wishes never had been written.

"All through my teen-age years I constantly thought about committing suicide," he said in the 1986 article. "I would hold a knife to my stomach and think about stabbing myself, or sometimes I'd consider running out into the street in front of a car. Many nights I would sit in my room crying and ask God why he was letting these things happen to me. I felt like an ugly duckling, unloved and alone in the world."

To hear him tell it now, those who dredge up his past for dramatic effect have missed the point. This is not about anger or even regret. Catharsis? Maybe. Redemption? Certainly. But this is not an angry man.

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