Just 20 minutes south of Dallas, Texas is a small town called Mansfield. The population is just roughly over 60,000 and one of those residents consists of Michael Smith.
Smith is 25-year-old right-handed pitcher, in the Los Angeles Angels system, currently pitching for the High-A Inland Empire 66ers. Smith played college ball and spent five years at Dallas Baptist University. Baseball is the only sport at DBU participating in Division I, and Smith is very proud of not only his college career, but what the program has accomplished thus far.
While at DBU, Smith had Tommy John surgery following his freshman year. There is no doubt that Smith is someone willing to work hard. Tommy John surgery usually takes a player a year to return to competitive play. Tommy John helps define a pitchers work-ethic post-surgery.
In 2013, Smith was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 29th round of the MLB Amateur Draft. Smith began his professional career, like most, in Rookie Ball, with the Orem Owlz in the Pioneer League, and progressed steadily to Class-A with the Burlington Bees (Midway League) and currently High-A with Inland Empire. Smith held a 4.01 ERA and 1.23 WHIP last season, through 74 innings pitched. After talking to Smith, I learned he likes to “Force contact early, not striking a lot of guys out, but by weak ground balls or weak contact.”
Smith is a returning player for the Inland Empire 66ers. Smith understands his role with the 66ers this season and there is no doubt he feels comfortable here. He describes his team by using the term, “brotherhood.”
“I’m excited for the team I have," says Smith. "I got drafted with a bunch of these guys and I love playing with them. I love them as people. I want to be the best teammate I can be, and try to help these guys adjust day in and day out”.
Smith, a sinker ball and slider friendly pitcher, described his goals for this upcoming season.
“Either on base or in the dugout in 3 pitches or less. So if I can do that, I will be successful.”
66ers pitching coach, Matt Wise, is very fond of Smith as well, and hopes to see him with Double-A Arkansas by years end. Wise gave large credit to Smith in cleanup situations, as well as with runners on base, which goes right in line with Smith's goals for the season.
“He's one of my favorites because he’s a great guy and teammate,” Wise said of Smith. “He is very valuable to our ball club.”
After 5 years at DBU, Smith majored in Kinesiology and got his masters in Education with an emphasis in special education. He discovered his love for special education during his senior year in high school after taking a class where classmates would buddy up with a student in special education and have physical education with them. His intentions were to take it as an easy class but his mindset changed while taking the course.
“These kids have such great hearts. It's great working and being active with them."
Smith would like to pursue a coaching career once his current baseball career ends, preferably in Mansfield. Mansfield was recently ranked one of the “Best Places To Live," so it is no wonder that Smith plans on returning to his hometown after a successful baseball career, where he loves the "small community" of his hometown.
Once he returns to his hometown, he would like to coach baseball whether it’s high school level, college level or minor league system.
“I probably love coaching more, as much if not more as I love playing just because I've had coaches in my life who have contentiously impacted my life."
Smith related coaching to the real world. It is no wonder that he pursued education, as it is a way to apply his teaching in coaching. Of course, he plans on doing this after getting to the big leagues and winning a ring with his "buddies," the players and teammates he's currently with in the minors.
Vanessa Armas is an affiliate correspondent for Scout.com, as well as a translator for Scout Staffing. Vanessa can be found on Twitter, @NessaArmas.
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