Seth Smith was drafted in the 48th round by the Diamondbacks in June, 2001, out of Hillcrest Christian. But he came to Ole Miss to play baseball and football instead.
Three years later, baseball was his certain future. He was drafted by the Rockies in the second round, the 50th pick that June day, 2004. His dream of playing professional baseball had come true.
He actually worked his way up fairly quickly and made his major league debut Sept. 16, 2007.
He was on the roster the rest of that season as the Rockies played the Red Sox in the World Series. Boston won it but the former SEC Freshman of the Year in 2002 had reached the top of his profession.
"Things went pretty smoothly," the outfielder admitted. "I kinda went up a level every year and got to the big leagues. I had a little bit of success early. I've been able to stick so far. That's the toughest part. A lot of guys get to the big leagues. It's staying around and playing for a long time that's hard to do. So that's something I'm trying to do, work hard every day and keep myself in shape whether I'm playing or not. Get to the park and take care of business."
Seth loves playing baseball, especially at its highest level. But he said it isn't all quite as rosy as some may think from the outside looking in.
"There's really nothing easy about major league baseball. It's hard," he said from the dugout at Turner Field prior to a recent Rockies game against the Braves. "You have to come to the park every day and make sure you do the little things to prepare yourself and the little things during the game to make sure you have success. You're facing the best of the best. You're not facing any easy pitchers. You get a good pitch, then you have to square it up or you're in for a long day or a long season if you can't figure it out."
Having a career in professional baseball, obviously, is one that most who play at any level could only dream about. Few players who start out playing as kids ever reach the major leagues. Seth said a typical work day can actually be a grind, and players have to adjust to keep from becoming complacent.
"You get to the ballpark early," he said. "At home you get to the field five or six hours before the game. On the road, your batting practice is a little later. So you're getting there four or five hours before the game. Different guys do different things. I like to get here and kinda unwind and hang out, see if I'm in the lineup, get some food that first hour. Then it's time to go to work. You get dressed, take some cuts in the cage, and then a little while later you're on the field taking batting practice. Then it's time for the game. So you're here for a long time, but there's not a ton of down time. Some days you work out or run some sprints. Just a lot of different things to do. We don't just show up and play games every night."
And there are also the travel factors and being away from family. Seth and his wife Lindsay, a former Ole Miss softball player, have a two-month-old daughter, their first child.
"There's a lot of stuff people don't see," he said. "The travel, being at the park all day. Thursday night (in Atlanta) we'll be done about 11, drive to the airport, fly to Detroit and have a game the next night. So it's pretty taxing. They do a good job taking care of us. But there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes that will wear on you. On a road trip you're gone for 10 or 11 days at a time. Your family's back home and you don't get to see them. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. But there's definitely a down side to some of the stuff we do."
His family was in Atlanta for that series. Most live in the Jackson area, so they get to catch some games when Seth is in places like Atlanta, Houston, and St. Louis.
He's become the everyday left fielder for Colorado. He was 3-for-4 two nights ago in Houston. But the Rockies lost, as they did last night when he went 1-for-5. Seth says the 20-31 ballclub, which dismissed manager Clint Hurdle last Friday and replaced him on an interim basis with bench coach Jim Tracy, must pick it up.
"It's been tough," said Smith, batting .274 currently with four home runs, three doubles, two triples, and 12 RBI, playing in 47 of the 51 games to date. "We haven't played as well as we thought we would or should. It's still fun coming to the park every day. We just need to start winning some games."
He says he knows what he's doing for a living is special, and he hopes to be doing it for years to come.
"It's more just a baseball game now," he said, mentioning that some of the "wow" has worn off. "I've been to all the National League stadiums except for two. You're still in awe of what's going on. It's still big-league baseball and you don't take that for granted. Once it starts it's a baseball game and I'm figuring out what to do to get a hit. It's different than it was in the beginning, but at the same time you don't take anything for granted. Talent is only so much of the equation. If you have enough talent and you come out every day and you want it and work hard, there's a good chance you could stick around for a long time."
He and Lindsay enjoy living in Colorado. They spend the season there and the offseason back home in Brandon.
"We love it," he said. "It's awesome out there. Great sports town. Great place to live. The weather's pretty good. In the summer it doesn't get too hot. Of course you deal with the cold early (in the season). Denver's a great place to live and play."
Seth wants the organization to have more success, like it did in the fall of '07. Things are tough right now for the team, but he said he's already enjoyed some highlights in his short time in the majors.
"The World Series in 2007 would have to be at the top of the list," he said. "This year coming in and being an opening day starter was special and also getting a chance to play a lot. I've been in a backup role the past two years. I'm trying to establish myself as a guy who can go out there and be more than a pinch hitter. So it's been exciting and fun and frustrating and everything rolled into one. I just go out there and battle every day and if I have a bad game, I try to come out the next day, make some adjustments and have some success."
Seth's Story - Part II
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