Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

July 28, 2012

Dwight Smith now roving the minors for his son

BLUEFIELD — Dwight Smith made it from the Appalachian League to the big leagues. He plans to be there as his son does the same.

“He has got a good chance,” Smith said. “I always tell him the biggest thing is to go out and have fun and remember don’t live and die with time and the losses and go and learn. It  is a marathon, it is not a sprint so you have got to keep going.”

Smith, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting in 1989, was recently in Bluefield to watch his son play for the Blue Jays. Smith was in the same league in 1984, as part of the Pikeville Cubs, batting .236 with one very memorable home run.

“I played in this league in 1984, I had them laughing about it,” Smith said. “I had one home run in my last at-bat in ’84 so he already beat my average as far as home runs anyway.

“I am real pleased with him, coming to see my son getting the opportunity to play the game that I had the opportunity to play so you can’t beat that.”

An eight-year major league veteran, Smith first made headlines in 1989, helping the Chicago Cubs win the National League East title, but falling short in the playoffs to the Giants. He finished just behind Jerome Walton in the Rookie of the Year voting, despite batting .324 with nine home runs and 52 RBIs.

They were the second duo to finish 1-2 in rookie voting behind Fred Lynn and Jim Rice with Boston in 1975, and it happened a third time last season in Atlanta and Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman.

“I probably should have got it, I have always told Jerome Walton I out-hit him,” Smith said. “I hit.324, but it was still beautiful because we were roommates and we were (1-2) for rookie of the year on the same ball club.”

Smith was led through his rookie season by some of the best players in the game, including Shawon Dunston and Andre Dawson. Both Smith and Dunston had sons chosen in the most recent amateur draft.

“Shawon Dunston took me under his wing when I went there, and Andre Dawson was real tremendous to me too,” Smith said. “He always told me not to get too high on a couple of hits, you are still a rookie so he always kept us grounded.”

Smith later played for the Braves in 1995 when Atlanta defeated the New York Yankees to claim the World Series title. He and Greg Maddux had both been Cubs in ’89 when they fell short in the playoffs against San Francisco.

“My most memorable moments was in Chicago with Harry Carey even though I won a World Series in Atlanta,” Smith said. “I live in Atlanta, but the Cubs drafted me and Harry Carey was everything on WGN and I wouldn’t trade nothing for that.  

“It was awesome, me and Greg Maddux were on that ’95 team that won the World Series and we go back in ‘96 to play the Cubs and he is pitching and I was in left field and they booed us pretty bad.”

Smith, who also played with the Angels and Orioles, finished his career in 1996. He became a coach, and spent lots of time in Princeton during his five-year stint as a roving instructor for the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I was there for (Josh) Hamilton and (Carl) Crawford and (Rocco) Baldelli and all those good guys,” Smith said. “(Dwight Jr) was in the clubhouse then. That is another reason he loved it because when he was young I was a coach and he lived around it all his life so he couldn’t help but to pick it up.”

His son is one of the three sons of major league players on the Blue Jays. Dwight Jr. plays center field for Bluefield, having batted .212 with three home runs and 14 runs batted in.  

“A lot of people think because I played it was forced on him, but first of all I know being a ex-major leaguer you have got to love it to be good and he loved it,” Smith said.

Having been around a major league player for his entire life, Smith feels that will help his son in the steps it will take for him to achieve his dream.

“I have been a coordinator so he knows the process and that is going to help him more than anything,” Smith said. “He knows the system and he knows it is a marathon and you have got to keep going. One year ain’t going to make it and one year ain’t going to break it and you have got to keep going.”  

Smith has worked with his son to help prepare him for this opportunity. Dwight Jr. was a first round supplemental selection by Toronto last June.

“I told him I am going to be a coach and a dad, and when you are on that baseball field I ain’t your dad, I am your coach,” Smith said. “I am going to tell you what you want to hear and deserve to hear, not what you want to hear and then when we go home I can be dad.”

A father of two daughters still in high school, Smith worked with his son through summer leagues and also got him involved in the East Cobb baseball program in Atlanta.

“He has been a great kid, I wouldn’t trade him for nothing in the world, not only good athletically, but good academically,” Smith said. “He had a beautiful scholarship to Georgia Tech so we are going to pursue his academics as well.”  

Smith, who will turn 49 in November, enjoys his life in Atlanta, and keeping up with his son.

“I am doing personal lessons and living off my pension and coming to see my son,” Smith said. “I came on to make sure I can see him. I am roving, but I am roving for him, I work for Dwight Jr.  

“I am not a Blue Jays guy, I am just a coordinator that comes in and sees him from up top.”

While Smith enjoyed being his career, especially winning a World Series, he still has one hope before he dies. It sounds a lot like so many Cubs fans who want to see a championship, something that hasn’t happened since 1908.

“I was real pleased and real fortunate to be on that team in Atlanta in 95, but there is nothing more in the world that I would love to see one day is Chicago win a world championship because those fans deserve it," he said.

“I tell them ‘y’all win one before I pass away’ but Toronto has got to win one again first too because my son is now on this ball club.”  

Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson @ bdtonline. com.

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