Although Ole Miss had been to the College World Series on four occasions and in the NCAA Tournament numerous times, the Rebels hadn't hosted a baseball regional until 2004. Seth Smith was one of the reasons the program was able to do so.
That team was loaded with talent. Players like Matt Tolbert and Chris Coghlan, now both in the Major Leagues with the Twins and Marlins respectively, joined Smith to help Ole Miss continue to rebuild its baseball tradition.
Their names still resonate among Rebel fans as another NCAA Oxford Regional begins today. Guys like Head and Pettway, Osteen and Presley, Babineaux and Gunther, Wright and Maloney, Holliman and Fowler and Cupps.
Smith, a former Hillcrest Christian standout who has been with the Rockies organization since he was drafted and signed in June, 2004, said it's still nice to know he and his teammates helped get things started for Regional play in Oxford.
"It's special," he said in a recent interview from the dugout in Atlanta where the Rockies were playing the Braves. "To know we all had a part in what's going on now and to get the program where it is today is special. Coach (Mike) Bianco has done a great job."
Smith is married to the former Lindsay Price, who played softball at Ole Miss. The couple's first child, a daughter, was born this spring.
They live in Brandon in the offseason. Smith, a backup quarterback during his Ole Miss years, said they remain in touch with their alma mater and what's going on at Ole Miss.
"I keep up as much as possible," he said. "I check out the website and try to keep in touch."
The Rebels didn't advance to a Super Regional in 2004 and Smith's college career ended short of some of its goals. But a life in baseball teaches that things don't always work out as you want them to.
"I wish we could have had a little more success than we did when I was there," he said. "We had some really good teams and had the talent to go a little further. But it's baseball. Baseball's tough. It's a long season, especially here but also in college.
"But those were awesome times," the outfielder continued. "We try to get back to Ole Miss as much as we can, like in the offseason for a football game and to see some old friends."
A lot of whom will be in the stands and in the outfield today and throughout the weekend, carrying on a tradition Seth Smith and his Rebel teammates helped start five years ago.
"The fans at Ole Miss and the city of Oxford have really rallied around the baseball team and really all the sports," Smith, the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2002, said. "It's good and it helps out a ton, knowing everybody wants to succeed and that everybody will come out and support you."
More on Seth and his pro career in part II later.
Seth's Story - Part I
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