The two former Blue Wahoos teammates have occasionally conversed, which has allowed Jaylin Davis and Randy Dobnak brief time to share experience and grasp significance.
In a span of months during the summer of 2019, they went from playing in Pensacola at the Double-A level to realizing major league dreams.
They had company, too.
Davis and Dobnak were among eight Blue Wahoos players last season climbing to the top of professional baseball’s ultimate ladder. Eight players once captivating fans at Blue Wahoos Stadium reached the game’s biggest stage.
“That doesn’t happen often, for sure,” said Dobnak, reflecting on their combined, meteoric rise back in March when spring training was in full swing and a new season seemed imminent.
“It’s just really awesome. Not just for us, but for everyone else involved,” he said. “Front office, fans, people who worked at the stadium who got to know us off the field and on the field. Just people to be able to share moments like that is pretty cool for everybody involved.”
When Blue Wahoos manager Ramon Borrego exited spring training a year ago, he figured his team had good talent, but never imagined any possibility of multiple players reaching the big leagues in one summer.
“We start the season with I think one guy on the (Minnesota Twins) 40-man roster and that was Luis Arraez,” Borrego said. “You knew the big league team was very impressive.
“When I got this team, I started looking at guys who had a chance to play in the big leagues. Not last year, but at some point. I wasn’t thinking last year.
“If there was one guy I knew would make it, 100 percent sure, it was Arraez. Because I knew Arraez can hit, so if he kept that up, I knew he would be in the big leagues.”
That’s exactly what happened. Quickly.
Arraez batted .342 with 14 RBI in 38 games for the Blue Wahoos. The infielder was called up May 14 to Triple-A Rochester where he played only three games for Red Wings.
Four days after leaving Pensacola, Arraez made his major league debut with the Twins on the road against the Seattle Mariners, going 1-for-2 in his first at-bats. He finished the season with the best rookie batting average in Twins history, .334 in 366 plate appearances.
That average is the fifth best all-time by a 22-year-old player in baseball history. Those who produced higher numbers include legends Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Stan Musial.
That is the company Arraez now keeps.
“He is really special,” Borrego said. “A guy who is just so mentally strong and believes he can hit anyone. He hits as well as anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Arraez, who first dazzled fans in Pensacola with his dance moves at a preseason meet-the-team event at Seville Quarter, started the party of Blue Wahoos players advancing to the big leagues.
He was followed in succession to Minnesota by pitchers Devin Smeltzer, Sean Poppen, Cody Stashak, Dobnak, Brusdar Graterol, and Jorge Alcala.
Popular outfielder Jaylin Davis also made the trek to the Major Leagues, but through a different route.
He was traded to the San Francisco Giants organization following his appearance in the Southern League All-Star game as a Blue Wahoo. One months later, he was in the Major Leagues.
Ironically, Davis was traveling back from dinner with former Pensacola teammate Ryan Mason when he got the phone call to inform of his major league promotion.
Davis was with the Sacramento River Cats, the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate. Mason, a northern California native, was back home that night while rehabbing a season-ending injury.
“Mason was taking me back to my hotel when my manager called to say I was going up the next day,” Davis said. “He pulled over and I called my family right away. That was really exciting.
The moment occurred a just a month after Davis was traded on July 31 to the Giants in a four-player swap.
“A lot of mixed emotions getting traded,” Davis said. “You are getting ready to play a game that night (for Blue Wahoos) and I get told I can’t play, because I just got traded.
“I felt like as a team in Pensacola, we had a high standard for each other. I felt every day we came to the field we came to take care of business.
“Playing with Arraez, I had played with him almost every year going through the minors. We all knew he was going to make it. When you see those guys on TV, you think, ‘Hey, I was just playing with these guys a few months ago, so it was pretty cool.”
Led by their collection of soon-to-be big leaguers, the Blue Wahoos won a franchise-best eight series to start the year. They advanced to the Southern League post-season for a fifth consecutive year, matching the second-best in league history.
“I knew some of the guys from the previous year,” said Dobnak, whose own improbable rise began while playing in 2017 for an Independent League team in Michigan. “It was really cool to go along that whole ride the past year with them. I think that is something we can always cherish and share that together.”