Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

July 20, 2012

Like father, like son

Smith follows major league dad on baseball diamond

BLUEFIELD — The name may be familiar to baseball fans, Dwight Smith.

In 1989 Dwight Smith was an up-and-coming outfielder for the Chicago Cubs who finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting. He later played for the 1995 World Champion Atlanta Braves and had brief stints with the Baltimore Orioles and California Angels.

Turn the clock to 2012 and Dwight Smith Jr., is an up-and-coming outfielder with the Bluefield Blue Jays, the 53rd overall selection (second round) in this year’s amateur draft.

The younger Smith was given his father’s name and he has a passion for the game that his father instilled in him at a young age.

“He’s the main reason why I wanted to play in the first place,” Smith Jr., said. “I always followed him to the park and put on his jersey and stuff, and hit with his bats. He WAS the main reason I wanted to play.”

Smith Jr., recalled going with his father to the clubhouse at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, when his dad played for the Braves and the atmosphere that surrounded him.

“It was amazing, all the guys messed with you a lot,” Smith Jr., reminisced. “They teased you, put you in the shower and stuff, treated you like a player. It was kind of fun when I went with my dad to the park.”

These days Smith Jr., is going to the park to ply his trade and climb the ladder of professional baseball. Straight out of high school, he said southern West Virginia reminds him somewhat of his home.

“It’s pretty exciting here, nice scenery, seeing the mountains, it kind of reminds me of home back in Georgia,” Smith Jr., noted. “It’s a nice, relaxed atmosphere, not too much. The fans come out, good fan support and it’s pretty exciting every night to play here.”

Smith Jr., has played in 23 games this season for the Bluefield Blue Jays, most of them in center field, a few as designated hitter, and quite a bit of them as the leadoff hitter, a new batting position for Smith Jr.

“It’s kind of different because I’m used to hitting three,” Smith Jr., commented. “As the leadoff hitter you’ve got to set it up for other people behind you. You’ve got to get on base often and you’ve got to basically set the tone for the whole game.

“It’s a very important role to play every single game, leadoff. You’ve got to take pitches and get as much information you can that first at-bat or so, about what the pitcher has.”

One adjustment Smith Jr., did not have to make was the switch from aluminum to wood bats.

“I always loved hitting with wood over aluminum anyway,” Smith Jr., said. “With aluminum my hands were too quick and sometimes I’d pop it up, get under it.”

Smith Jr., considers himself a batter that can hit for power and average. Currently he has three home runs and is batting .214. Art Charles leads the team with five homers.  Though he possesses extraordinary speed he has only stolen one base in two attempts. He said he’s not worried about steals, that’s up to Jays manager Dennis Holmberg.

“Right now we don’t really have the green light unless he gives it to us,” Smith Jr., said. “Sometimes he’ll give it to us, though.”

The rookie outfielder said Holmberg and the Blue Jays coaching staff have been tremendous in helping him and all the young players on the team.

“They kept us going throughout this grind. They’ve kept our spirits up. When things got rough, a couple of walk-off games that we could have won, they told us we just have to keep pushing, keep pushing, keep battling,” Smith Jr. said. “A couple of games go our way and we’re close to first place, or we’re possibly in first place. They just keep us up, tell us to keep playing, keep battling and the baseball gods will answer.”

Smith is the oldest of three children in his family. He has a sister who is a rising senior in high school and one entering the fifth grade this school year. He said his parents have come to see him play and are planning to come back.

Smith and the Blue Jays game against Princeton was rained out Thursday night. The Jays play at Princeton tonight, then host the Rays for a doubleheader on Saturday.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com

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