Whirlwind week for CIF champ, MLB Draft pick
JUN 05, 2013 3:54p ET
It’s been quite a week for the highly touted baseball prospect out of Serra High School, who was selected 11th overall in the 2013 MLB Draft by the New York Mets.
Smith joins fellow local Phillip Bickford out of Oaks Christian High, who was selected 10th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Last Friday, Smith pitched 6.1 innings and struck out nine to help lead the Cavaliers to an 8-1 win at Dodger Stadium to capture the CIF Southern Section Division III championship.
Smith was one of 13 African Americans on the 19-player squad believed to be the first predominantly African American team to win a CIF-SS baseball title.
On Saturday morning, Smith was on a flight to Arizona for a pre-draft workout.
He returned back to Los Angeles on Saturday night in time to get some rest for Sunday, when he returned to Dodger Stadium for another pre-draft workout.
“My Dodger workout went pretty well,” Smith said.
By the time Wednesday morning rolled around, he was headed to New York for the 2013 MLB Draft, where he was scooped up by the Mets.
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The Dodgers have the 18th pick in the draft, but Smith wasn't around in time for the hometown team when it’s their time to select.
In addition to his talents on the mound as a left-handed pitcher, he also has one of the best bats in this draft class.
Smith was 4-0 on the year with a 1.85 ERA, 43 strikeouts and walked 15, but it’s his bat that has scouts excited. He hit .493 with seven home runs and 37 RBI during his senior season. He had a slugging percentage of 1.015 and had 24 walks and struck out just eight times.
“I have the understanding I’m going to be a position player,” Smith said. “They want me to play first base or outfield.
"It’s looking more like first base.”
Checking in at 6-feet and 210 pounds, Smith’s success on the baseball diamond has gone against the grain.
Just 8.5 percent of players on opening day rosters to begin the 2013 Major League Baseball season were African-American. The peak of African-Americans in the Majors is believed to be 27 percent during the 1970s. Since then, there has been a steady decline.
In 1991, Major League Baseball began administering the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program to try to help increase baseball in urban communities.
There are multiple theories on why baseball isn’t as popular among African-Americans.
Some center around the costs to play baseball competitively, while others focus on baseball’s lack of instant gratification compared to basketball and football. While a college star can be drafted and make an immediate impact in the NBA or NFL, the road to "The Show" generally begins in the minor leagues for baseball players.
The truth is there isn’t one particular reason where the blame can, without a doubt, be placed.
Smith is doing something rare, indeed. The fact that he’s able to share it with one of his best friends, Lakewood shortstop J.P. Crawford, who went 16th overall to the Philadelphia Phillies.
“It’s pretty rare,” Smith said. “It’s a great honor to be in that category and be the opposite of statistics. I’m pretty happy that we were able to do the things that we did, especially growing up being friends, and it’s just crazy and surreal that we both have a chance to get selected in the first round.”
Crawford and Smith have known each other since they were young and grew up playing together on the same travel ball teams. When they return to Los Angeles on Friday, they’ll do so as MLB Draft picks.
For Smith, it’ll bring a wild week to a close.
“(Along) with exhaustion, I have to say that it’s been a fun ride,” Smith said. “It’s been a roller coaster ride. It’s a lot of excitement going through my head and things like that. I wouldn’t trade it all for the world.”
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