Blast from the Past: Rocky “The Rock” Davenport

Published 12:22 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Start in a sport at age five, live, love and play every chance you get, hopefully, your dad is a mentor of the game, have great coaches that teach you the game, read and learn the rule book from front to back,  work hard with your priorities in order.
Coach Willie Church said, “Your priorities should be, number one, The Lord, number two, family, number three, school, and number 4, baseball.” And that’s the rules Rocky “the Rock” Davenport followed to become a legend in the baseball world.
Davenport spent over thirty years as a TSSAA official umpire, he worked many district and regional tournaments and even the TSSAA state baseball tournament.  Davenport began playing pee wee baseball at the age of five and loved every minute of it. He couldn’t wait for Saturday’s to come to show off his baseball skills.  He worked his way up from pee wee to Little League, Jr, Babe Ruth, high school and then to college playing at Bristol College with former Cyclone teammate Jerald Oliver and Cloudland’s Tony Church.
Up fifteen runs at Cloudland, Coach Sid Hathaway sent Rocky to left field, Rocky said, “Coach I have never played left field.”  Hathaway said, “Rocky if you want to play, go to left field.” So off to left field Rocky ran. It was the beginning of his high school career.
In high school, Willie Church did what he could to teach Davenport baseball.  “He was one of the best baseball men I’ve ever been around,” stated Rocky.  “He was very strict but his number one priority was to make us a better person, he was a big influence in my life,” Davenport said.
Elizabethton won the district his junior year in 1975 with Rick Carriger who threw a couple of no-hitters and later signed with the Braves.  Billy Bristol was third base and in the tournament, they had 43 chances in the infield and didn’t make an error.  Rocky’s senior year he made All-Conference batting 106 times and only striking out four times.  Other teammates were Bryan Yontz, Oliver and Mark Dugger to name a few.
After finishing college baseball at Bristol, Davenport began playing fastpitch softball with the great Jarfly Dugger, Wes Holly, Scotty Bunton and Jarflys brother Ken.  What a great team they had and played many big ballgames. 
Davenport began umpiring at the age of sixteen with Big Earl Davenport.  A seasoned official who was a top of the line umpire and was dedicating his time and experience working Little League baseball and was Rocky’s dad.  Everyone knew Big Earl, he was a class act.  Rocky also umpired Big Earls final game at Cardinal Park, a college game, where Bernie Young was the coach.  A doubleheader where the Davenport’s traded places after game one.  After the second game when the last pitch was thrown Big Earl said “Son here is where I turn it over to you. It’s your time.” It was a game Rocky will never forget.
Davenport was also an NAIA College umpire for 28 years. Was the umpire in chief at the Regionals before the College World Series.  He umpired many Tennessee-ETSU games with guys like Todd Helton and R.A. Dickey playing.  It all totaled over 5,000 games in 38-years.
Davenport also coached baseball and basketball on many different levels and was one of Babe Ruths’ best ever.  He took many kids to state tournaments and coached many leagues and All-Star teams.
Rocky had one son, Robert, who also was a great athlete, played baseball at Elizabethton and also became a TSSAA umpire.  Like father, like son, Rocky also worked games with Robert and passed the torch along to Robert after he retired from umpiring baseball.  Coach Church also worked with Robert and was his teacher in school.
 Rocky’s dad Big Earl was inducted into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame a few years ago, Earl had passed away but Rocky, his sister, and family were there to represent the Davenport family.  A great tribute for a man who started three generations of umpires.
Davenport now spends his time watching his favorite baseball team the New York Yankees play and often visits Yankee stadium with his good friend Steve Hodge and both their sons, all are Yankees diehards. He also fixes one of the best burgers and fried tators you’ll ever eat.  He could be a chef.  I would rather umpire a game with Rocky than anyone else, he knew the rules and he knew how to enforce them.  He knew how to treat coaches with respect and to get his point across when a coach didn’t agree with a call.  He was one of East Tennessee best ever umpires, Rocky “The Rock” Davenport has left the field.

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