Reginald Smith taught his son baseball fundamentals soon after he was able to put on a glove and hold a bat.
Not long after that, Patrick Smith began following his older brother, Reginald Smith Jr., to recreation league practices and games. All the while, one mantra was being drummed into Patrick’s young baseball mind.
“My dad always stressed defense, defense, defense,” said Patrick, a senior outfielder at Redan. “Him and my brother would always tell me that. I was like their trainee.”
Patrick, who is six years younger than his brother, would practice with Reginald Jr.’s rec league team and later work out with his Stone Mountain High School team.
Patrick’s father played college baseball at Morehouse and his brother earned a baseball scholarship to Albany State, but a shoulder injury that required surgery kept Reginald Jr. from playing college ball.
“My brother always pushed me to do well,” Smith said. “It’s good to learn fundamentals at a young age. The younger the better.”
The early training has proven to pay dividends for Patrick. Although Patrick is one of the top hitters in the county, Redan baseball coach Marvin Pruitt says it’s defense that sets him apart from other players.
“The first thing that impressed me about Pat was his defense,” said Pruitt, who has won more than 400 games as a high school baseball coach. “He gets a great jump on the ball. He exemplifies what you see on Saturday and Sunday in the major leagues.”
His hitting also will help him get there. Smith leads DeKalb County with 46 RBIs and six home runs. He batted .439 and helped the Raiders qualify for the Class AAAAA state playoffs, which begins May 7 at Jenkins in Savannah. He had three doubles and four RBIs in the Raiders’ final regular season game against Newton.
“Offensively this year, I’m hitting the ball better and not striking out as much,” Smith said. “I just focus on making contact and putting the ball in play. My RBIs and batting average are way up from last year. I feel like I’ve made a lot of improvement from last year.”
His defense, though, has always been solid. The way he sets up under a fly ball, his range in center field, his strong arm and quickness in the field all suggest he was paying attention under the tutelage of his brother and father.
“At a young age, I can remember just doing what my dad said,” Smith said. “Looking back, I realized the things that he and my brother were saying were true. I can tell now the payoff has been great.”
Smith, who is a solid student with a 3.0 grade point average, has accepted a scholarship to Middle Georgia College, a two-year school. But his options are open as he has been visited by several Major League Baseball scouts and could get drafted this June.
“He’s committed to Middle Georgia, but the scouts are watching him,” Pruitt said. “It really depends on what he does over the next few weeks (in the state playoffs). If he continues to hit the ball the way he has and ends up improving his batting average, he could get drafted.”
Smith chose a two-year school because NCAA rules will allow him to be taken in the MLB draft after his freshman or sophomore year once he is enrolled. Had he chosen a four-year school, Smith would have to wait until after his junior season to be eligible for the draft.
“When the draft comes around, I’ll see what happens and see what the offer is,” Smith said. “That’s my dream, to play in the major leagues.”