By Jordan Heller
MANHATTAN — New York Mets rookie sensation Ike Davis met with fans at Modell’s in Times Square on Tuesday for the official launch of the “I Like Ike” T-shirt.
It’s not yet June and the 23-year-old freshman first baseman already has a tribute shirt — an appropriation of the 1950s-era Eisenhower presidential campaign slogan.
Davis's early popularity can be credited to the much-needed spark he's given the Amazin's from the moment he was called up on April 19. In his Major League debut, the one-time Brooklyn Cyclone had two base hits in a Mets win, and after 32 games, the fan-favorite carries a .290 batting average with four homeruns and eight doubles.
“He’s been making those great plays over the railing, he’s got a good average, and is bringing some excitement to a team that needs it,” said Tom Suljic, 34, a Mets fan who after meeting Davis acted like he just shook hands with Tom Seaver. “I think it’s great. I hope he has a great long career with the Mets.”
But Davis’s play is not the only thing exciting fans.
With many Jewish baseball fans in New York, Davis’s roots have become a subject of fascination. His mother is Jewish, Ike was named for his Jewish grandfather (Isaac), and a number of his Jewish family members perished in the Holocaust.
“It’s cool,” said Davis, of being Jewish and playing in New York. “Jerry Seinfeld turned to his kid and said, ‘Look, you can be Jewish and be a professional ballplayer.’ In that sense it’s a good thing, for sure.”
The Mets start a three-game series against their NL East rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
“It’s still there,” said Davis, of the Amazin's rivalry with the defending National League champs. “They beat us last time at their place, but we’re gonna try and get them back at our place.”
Davis will donate all of his “I Like Ike” T-shirt proceeds to Ewing’s Sarcoma research, a form of cancer that took the life of his close friend, Mike Leo.