January 27, 2014
When you are chosen in the first-round you have big expectations to fill. And no one knows that better than left-fielder Dwight Smith Jr. who was chosen in the supplemental first round in the 2011 MLB Draft out of McIntosh High School in Georgia.
“Being drafted by Toronto was exciting,” Smith Jr. stated, adding, “It was a pretty exciting time. I couldn’t wait to start my new professional career.”
★Girodo Started Pro Ball Career in Lansing★
★Graveman Enjoyed Opportunity in Lansing★
As soon as the following season rolled around, Smith Jr. had began his professional career and was enjoying his time playing in the Appalachian League with the Bluefield Blue Jays. While with the Blue Jays advanced-rookie ball team, he saw action in 41 games, batting .226 with six doubles, four home runs, and 21 RBIs in 159 at-bats.
His performance earned him a late season promotion to the Blue Jays short season-A team in Vancouver, British Colombia, where he enjoyed his first taste of playing baseball in Canada. He batted .175 with three doubles, one triple, and eight RBIs in 63 at-bats in 18 games.
“Bluefield and Vancouver were both great opportunities. It was my first year of professional baseball so I definitely learned a lot. “I took everything I could from those opportunities to get better for the future.”
A memorable moment from his 2012 season was being able to experience winning the 2012 Northwest League Championshop with the Canadians, and earning his first professional championship ring.
“Winning the championship in Vancouver was awesome. The celebration was even better. Hopefully I can experience that many more times in my career.”
Joining the team in 2013, Dwight Smith Jr. hoped the Lansing Lugnuts would be the next team to earn a ring. He made a strong impact in the Midwest League, batting .284 with 17 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 46 RBIs. It was a time the Georgia-native enjoyed deeply.
“Lansing is a nice city. It’s a nice little baseball town. People come out to the games and support us which feels good to have their support,” he said. “I liked having the opportunity to play every day in Lansing. The weather is nice here and you get to play night games and day games, it’s nice being able to mix it up like that.”
“Just learning in Lansing was great. It was my first full season and I feel it went well.”
“It went well” would be be an understatement, however, as the left-field led the team in batting average (.284) and was second on the team in runs (57) and stolen bases (25).
No matter where you put him he’s going to give you quality at-bats
Smith Jr. admitted that part of his success can be attributed to the values and instruction that was given to him by his father — named Dwight Smith as well — who played 813 career MLB games between the Cubs, Angels, Orioles, and Braves. The younger Smith admitted that the constant coaching and friendship between his father and him is what he likes best.
“I’ve learned everything from baseball to life from my Dad. I talk to him every day throughout the season,” he admitted, smiling. “My Dad is my best friend. He’s always been there for me and he will always be there for me. Just like a Dad is supposed to be.”
In addition to the coaching he received from his father, Smith Jr. admitted that the coaching he received while in Lansing also greatly impacted his game. The young outfielder also admitted that they were able to quickly recognize Smith’s strenghs and immediately noticed his versatility in the batting lineup. In 2013, Smith spent time as a leadoff hitter as well as second and third in the lineup on a regular basis.
“Smith can hit comfortably in any spot. No matter where you put him he’s going to give you quality at-bats, he can grind out hits, he can steal bases. He suits all three spots well,” stated Lugnuts’ Hitting Coach Kenny Graham, adding, “Smith Jr. [was] a nice addition to our team and [was] a nice consistent bat in our lineup.”
Now that the Lugnuts’ season is in the books, Smith is focused on relaxing a bit before jumping into the 2014 season preparation. “In the off-season I run, workout, eat healthy. Basically the same things we do here with a little more relaxing. Your body goes through a lot throughout the season.”
“You just need to take some time off and enjoy yourself.”