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MLB Draft 2021: Pirates No. 1 overall pick Henry Davis had to keep pretty massive secret


DENVER — On the biggest day of his baseball career, Henry Davis had to do just a little bit more work before hearing his name called in the MLB Draft.

He had to keep a secret. 

A couple minutes past 5 p.m. local time on the stage of the Bellco Theatre, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred — after waiting for the boos to subside — announced that the Pirates were taking Davis as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2021 MLB Draft. The pick wasn’t stunning, but it was at least a bit surprising.

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Louisville’s star catcher was known to be in the general conversation at 1-1, but most mock drafts leading up to the event had the Pirates taking prep shortstop Marcelo Mayer. Davis was most often in the 3-to-5 range. 

Davis wasn’t surprised to hear his name called, though. 

“I knew like an hour ago,” he admitted, with a big grin, to a handful of reporters backstage.

Keeping a secret like that might not seem like a big ask, until you consider how many people Davis interacted with in that hour. The atmosphere near the stage leading up to the broadcast was, let’s say, jovial. He did an interview on MLB Network. He shook hands and made small talk in that hour. Everybody chatting, everybody smiling. He was far from sequestered. 

But Davis kept his secret, that nugget shared with him by his agent. He did eventually tell his family, finally. 

“When I got the double-double, the 100 percent (confirmation),” he said. “Just seeing the emotion on their face was super special. I wouldn’t be here without the people on that row.”

And, yeah, when they could share that emotion free from the burden of secrecy? Even better. Actually, all Davis really had to do was to keep from offering up the information, because the small chat with all those people stayed just that: small chat. 

Nobody asked if he knew where he’d be taken. 

“I don’t know if that’s just them being extremely respectful, knowing a lot’s going on,” Davis said. “But people around me are amazing. I can’t reiterate that enough.” 

And now, he’s the No. 1 overall pick. Pirates GM Ben Cherington gave him the official welcome with a phone call.

“You set goals. You want to be 1-1 as a kid,” Davis said. “You grow up dreaming of moments like this. Lot of hard work’s gone into it. Lot of people have contributed.”

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Davis’ circle of people around him just expanded in Pittsburgh. 

“It’s awesome. I just told him, in 2004, I was the 11th overall pick in 2004 as a catcher by the Pirates, so I know some of the emotions he’s going through,” former Pirates star Neil Walker, who was there as Pittsburgh’s team draft representative, told Sporting News. “But obviously he’s the No. 1 pick, and we didn’t have anything like this.”

Walker, it turns out, was there playing two roles. He was the Pirates’ representative, and he was Pittsburgh’s Jon Snow. 

“I knew nothing,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think they trusted me to keep it close to the vest. I did know there were a handful of guys being considered, like everybody else, but I was sitting there on pins and needles waiting. I knew nothing!

“This is exciting. As somebody who grew up playing in Pittsburgh and lives in the area, this is the kind of guy I think can truly be a generational player for us.”


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