June 22, 2015
Clay Davison
  Gavin Lux always takes a little piece of Clay Davison on the field with him. On the hat he wore for his junior season at Kenosha (Wis.) Indian Trail, he wrote Davison’s number, 44, and a part of Psalm 23. He says he plans to do the same for his hat this week at the Tournament of Stars at the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, N.C. The event, scheduled for June 22 to 28, brings together 108 of the best high school baseball players in the country to compete for spots on the 18U National Team. That squad will play in the 2015 WBSC 18U World Cup in Osaka, Japan, starting in late August. It’s Lux’s way of keeping Davison on the field. The two were “kind of like brothers,” Lux said, part of the same group growing up in Kenosha, playing sports together and hanging out. Lux is travelling to summer baseball events and won’t be there, but some of that same group will gather in Kenosha on Sunday, for an event planned by Davison’s mother. It’s at Davison’s gravesite, on the anniversary of his death. —— Clay Davison was the kind of kid who was always the confidante. “He was a great guy, always there,” Lux said. “If I ever had a problem with my girlfriend, he was there to help me out.” His personality made him popular. “Clay was the it kid,” said his mother, Felicia Labatore. “He was the class clown and made everybody laugh. Everybody loved Clay because he was 100 mph all the time.” And he was also one of the community’s best athletes, always more physically mature than his classmates, the kind of kid everybody wanted on their team. “He was the athlete everybody wanted on their team,” Labatore said. “With Clay, there was only one way, and that was to win.” After the eighth grade, that was no longer enough. Davison turned to steroids. —– The warning signs for steroid use are clear. Severe acne that can be widespread. Periods of euphoria, or of depression, or swings between the two. Puffiness of the face or body. Extreme weight gain. And for Davison, always wanting to go to the gym. “As an athlete parent you think, hey they just want to go to the gym, they want to be better,” Labatore said. “But when they’re doing steroids, it’s a have-to-be at the gym.” Lux could see the differences in his friend. “He was kind of changing a little bit in the way his was going about it, and it wasn’t the same,” Lux said. “You could tell a little bit, but it didn’t seem like a big deal.” Then came the injuries. Davison broke his hand boxing, then injured both shoulders, but played through the pain in his freshman football season anyway, against doctors’ advice. After the season, he had surgery for a torn labrum, and couldn’t play sports in his sophomore year. But the steroid use didn’t stop. “He was such an athlete that he always wanted to be bigger, better, faster, stronger,” Labatore said. “(Steroids) led him down a path. He always told me, Clay was very honest about it, he told me he wished that people knew never to take any type of performance enhancing drugs, because it just led him down the wrong path.” —– Labatore knew her son had a problem. A police officer with the Kenosha City Police Department who counsels others on depression, she saw the signs, and she talked about them with her son. He resisted counseling. “I knew, because I had done this for my job, so I knew the signs, and I knew Clay’s life was falling apart,” she said. “All the signs were there — school fell apart, couldn’t play sports anymore – he was just in that terrible place. “I tried to get him to get help for a very long time. “This is something people should know. Clay had all these labels on him — cool kid, it kid, popular kid, funny kid, everybody wants to be that kid. “But he didn’t want to go get help because he didn’t want a depression label.” —– Lux was on his way home from a baseball tournament June 21, 2014, a year ago today when he heard Davison had taken his own life. “Another guy in our group called me and told me,” Lux said. “It was a huge shock, and no one was really expecting it. He was a really outgoing, very social, so you would think he would talk about it and let us know how he was feeling. “But he didn’t.” There was a crowd of about 1,000 at Davison’s funeral. Lux and some other members of the group spoke. Lux said that even a year later it’s hard to know Davison is gone. “Me and him were always really close, and always will be. He was always my go-to guy if I needed to talk about anything,” he said. “Not to have him there will always be hard.” —– Felicia Labatore has spoken to a number of women’s, church and school groups about her son’s death. Her message is directed at athletes and those who care about them. “It’s not the kids who grow in the ‘bad neighborhoods’ who are doing steroids, it’s the athletes,” she said. “They’ve seen so much with our major leaguers doing it, and I try to get to the heart of that. “Clay had it all together, and when he started doing that, everything fell apart for him. That’s my message to get kids not to even start down that path.” Lux said her message got through. “His mom made a really big impression on us,” Lux said. “She came in and talked to a lot of his close friends and people in the school, and said if anyone ever needed to talk to anyone to let her know. “She’s gone through it first-person. If anyone is going to be able to help, she could help, no doubt.” Lux said he hopes her message gets through. And he has a message of his own. “If you are doing it, get off it right away,” Lux said. “The side effects are bad, and it can mess up your life. “I’ve seen that first-hand.” —– The Tournament of Stars will be Lux’s first experience with USA Baseball, but not the first for his family. His uncle, Augie Schmidt, played for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team in 1981 and won the 1982 Golden Spikes Award — the nation’s top honor in amateur baseball — on his way to being the No. 2 overall pick in the draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. Schmidt lives in Kenosha and coaches at Carthage College, making him a big influence on Lux. He says he takes the most pride in his defense, and as a left-handed hitter tries to spray line drives and stay in the gaps. An Arizona State commitment, the invitation to the Tournament of Stars is just one of Lux’s accomplishments. “I just found out he got first-team all-state,” Mike Schmidt, Kenosha Indian Trail’s baseball coach, said. “But he’ll win all these awards, and the summer teams he’s played with and different stuff, and he won’t come out and tell you. You have to find out. That’s how humble he is.” And talented. “He’s the best player I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” Indian Trail coach Mike Schmidt (no relation to the Hall of Famer) said. “He can do it all. He hit .475 this year for us. He can make all the plays, from deep in the hole has the arm strength, and speed as well. “(Arizona State is) going to be getting a heck of a player.” That, and the memory of Clay Davison. “I remember Clay coming home and saying, you know mom, some day I’m going to be watching Gavin play in the big leagues. “I know Gavin put 44, which was Clay’s number, on his hat. I told him I saw it and how I thought that was sweet. I told him I know how much Clay wished he could be out on that field with him. “He just said as long as he’s on the field, Clay will be.” http://web.usabaseball.com/article.jsp?ymd=20150621&content_id=132093430&vkey=news_usab