“I went through it last year, so knew I would hear something from one of the teams before I was picked,” said Smith , who was ultimately selected in the 29th round by the Los Angeles Angels with the 876th overall pick. “The team that is going to pick you usually calls beforehand to let you know. I was actually talking with a few other teams and hadn't heard from the Angels, so I didn't even know that they were going to pick me.”
Once the selection was made, though, the Angels were quickly in touch to lay out Smith's first moves with the organization.
“I think I will be going to Orem, Utah, to their short season team,” Smith said. “Wherever I fly out to, I'll go get a physical and then start playing. It will probably be sometime this week.”
When he resumes pitching, the additional workload of a pro season combined with his just completed senior year at West Virginia will constitute his longest stretch of work in a year by far. However, he feels up to the task, noting that his preparation and workout regimen have him ready for the summer ahead. He also feels prepared in other ways, and credits West Virginia head coach Randy Mazey and pitching coach Derek Matlock for helping him progress in that direction.
“I got a lot of good mental preparation from them, to go out and attack with all my pitches, be aggressive and attack the strike zone,” Blake said. “Just going after the hitters. That's one of the big things they always emphasized with me. I have thought about the workload, but I think I have done a good job with my body and my arm and stay healthy. It will be interesting see how it works out."
Smith believes his velocity and mentality makes him better suited to pitching on the back end of games as either a closer or a late inning setup man, but is open to whatever the Angels have planned for him. Although he was drafted a year ago, a back injury, which required surgery and rehabilitation, contributed to his decision to return for his senior year at West Virginia. He also noted that completing his degree was a factor in that choice.
The decision to come back was a good one, as Smith was named an Honorable Mention Selection on the All-Big 12 Team. In 25 appearances, he had eight saves and a 2.20 ERA. He struck out 42 batters in 32.2 innings while walking only 15.