Redshirt now ready to take field

Redshirts are discouraging for some players, but Matt Smith used it as an opportunity. Now, that decision may pay off.

Smith practiced without playing during 2007 and was able to preserve all his eligibility going into this season. The more seasoned utility player is ready to take the field under the lights instead of only sharing reps during afternoon practice.

"Last year, it was all about getting better day-to-day," Smith said. "The coaches gave me things to work on and improve on, and those were the things I had to do. I was able to improve and get faster and stronger without wasting a year of eligibility."

His time as a Rebel isn't the only thing has helped Smith improve and prepare. He just finished completing a successful summer with the Delaware (Ohio) Cows of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.

While in Ohio, Smith appeared in 27 games and hit .344 on the season with 27 RBI and 49 total bases. The freshman, who was on the GLL All-Star team, committed only two errors in 104 chances.

On the mound, he tallied two saves and a 4.15 ERA in 4.1 innings of work. Opponents hit .188 off Smith.

"It was a really good summer in every aspect," Smith said. "We had a great pitching coach (Dave Koblentz) that really helped me. The coaches were all about throwing ideas out to us and letting us take advantage of a different type of learning and different techniques. I took them up on most of them. That is what you are there for."

Playing in a different environment was also easier because of the presence of other Rebels. Evan Button and Nathan Baker joined Smith on the wood-bat team, as did newcomer Michael Guerrero for the final weeks of the season. Guerrero and Button hit .500 and 288 respectively.

"The teammates made it all easier," Smith said. "I was in my comfort zone because I was with guys I knew. Plus, we interacted with the rest of the players on the team. I think our presence helped the entire team because we led everybody for the most part."

The two-way player could emerge in the outfield, at first base or as the designated hitter this season. He said he is concentrating on first base mostly and trying to first find playing time and then look to start.

"Just whatever will help the team most," Smith said. "I can move around and play different spots. Hopefully, I will find one that works for everybody."

Through three intrasquads, Smith is 2-9 with a double and a stolen base.

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