CONYERS - In 1996, Chris Davis probably thought his best days on Salem's baseball field were over.
But 12 years later, Davis is leading his team to the Final Four of the Class AAAA state baseball playoffs.
Davis, a 1996 graduate of Salem High School, was part of the school's second graduating class and a standout player for the Seminoles' baseball team.
Under coach Craig Baum, Davis shined at first base and was twice selected to The Citizen's All-Area team.
Davis was also a winner at Salem and remembered exactly what he felt like his senior year.
"We were subregion champs three times and region champs my senior year. That year, we were a team that was probably expected to do a lot, but we were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs," Davis said
Flash forward to today.
Davis now finds himself on a field that hardly resembles the one he competed on as a player.
"It's neat how everything here has changed," he said. "Our concession stand was a bank teller up on the hill. We didn't have a press box, we didn't have locker rooms, we had nothing. It was just a fence with dirt in the middle."
Still, Davis finds he can still equate his 96 team to the team that will take the field Monday in the state semifinals.
"I think the similarities between that team and this team is we had 10 seniors on that team and we have seven seniors on this team. Both teams had seniors that have been playing together for a long time," Davis said. "The difference is that we have a lot more underclassmen on this team that have really stepped up. We have a great group of underclassmen that have stepped up and play big roles on this team.
"I think this senior class is a group of guys that have always been winners. Some of them have been playing together since they were 5-years-old. They expect to win and they know how to win. The big thing is that these guys don't allow anything to faze them or the rest of the team, as far as adversity goes."
But it's not just the caliber of players that has allowed Davis to have such a special connection with this team.
"I think, if nothing else, I understand where they're coming from, as far as being a part of this program. Being someone who was part of a team similar to this, I understand a little about the pressures involved," Davis said. "When you're in the moment, one of the things you sometimes forget to do is enjoy it. I think that's one thing that this team has does very well. They've enjoyed there success right now and I think it's helping them play. They're not worrying about losing, they're having fun."
This year's team has already set numerous school records. Besides setting the school record for wins, the 2008 Seminoles have advanced further in the playoffs than any other team in school history.
"It means a lot to me. But, it means more to me to see how much it means to them," Davis said.
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org