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A homerun trot filled with changeups: Jimmy Smith III

%28Left%29+Smith+III+while+playing+at+CWU.+%28Right%29+Smith+III+alongside+his+sister.+Smith+III+is+now+officially+a+part+of+the+Philadelphia+Phillies+organization.
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A homerun trot filled with changeups: Jimmy Smith III

(Left) Smith III while playing at CWU. (Right) Smith III alongside his sister. Smith III is now officially a part of the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

(Left) Smith III while playing at CWU. (Right) Smith III alongside his sister. Smith III is now officially a part of the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

(Left) Smith III while playing at CWU. (Right) Smith III alongside his sister. Smith III is now officially a part of the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

(Left) Smith III while playing at CWU. (Right) Smith III alongside his sister. Smith III is now officially a part of the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

Dez Rodriguez, Senior Reporter

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James Smith III, also known as Jimmy Smith III, walks into the Philadelphia Phillies facility at 6:15 a.m. The glowing Philly logo on the building breaks the sky’s darkness. The bright light reminds him that he is in fact part of the Phillies organization. Through the cross country moves, initial classroom struggles and family health problems, he has made it.

“I’m still trying to take it all in. I still can’t believe it some days,” Smith III said.

The Nation’s Capitol to the Golden State

Born in Washington D.C, Smith III was introduced to the game of baseball at 3 years old. On Saturdays, his father would take him to watch the Orioles play at Camden Yards, which never left him, according to Smith III.

“It might have just been three or four times, but my dad made pancakes Saturdays and it always seemed like we were going to watch the Orioles play,” Smith III said. “I’ve been able to hold onto that memory and let it ride.”

Smith III moved to Riverside, California when he was five years old after his dad took a new job to be the Budget Director for the city of Riverside. He was signed up for t-ball that same year and immediately fell in love with the game. He continued to play through high school.

After graduating from Norco High School, Smith III had interest from the University of Miami. Unfortunately, Smith III had to pay out of pocket. The cost was something he wasn’t able to cover at the time, so he decided to try something closer. He chose Fullerton Junior College, only 40 minutes from home.

Smith III found success on the field his freshman season but ran into a roadblock in the classroom starting his sophomore year, when he failed a class and ultimately was removed from the baseball team. Smith III was determined to return to the field.

“I remember working at a smoothie shop in May when I got a call from coach Ken Wilson from Central,” Smith III said. “He saw me playing at a player showcase and said if I can make myself eligible again by taking summer classes, they’d love to have me up there.”

Smith III worked hard that summer and got his classes straightened out. Committing to CWU was a shock at first because he hadn’t been up north since his time back home in D.C. However, Smith III admitted to falling in love with the school and the state quickly.

As classes rolled around, Smith III felt the pressure of already having messed up his grades once. As time went on, his confidence built and he started passing his classes. He proved to his coaches that he could put in the work, making it back onto the baseball field as a result.

“I was super grateful and fired up. I didn’t want to go back to working in smoothie shops,” Smith III said.

The first year back to the field wasn’t a smooth showing at first, starting one for 23 at the plate.

“I knew I could do it, I knew everything was there,” Smith III said. “I think I was just a little too fired up and got too ahead of myself.”

Nov. 30 2017

On Nov. 30, 2017, Smith III was walking home from class when he noticed a voicemail from his coach, telling him that his father had been hospitalized due to a stroke. In the midst of preparing for his senior season, he now had to cope with the heart-dropping news.

“It felt like everything in my life kind of shifted perspective. Next thing I know, my skateboard is 40 feet away from me down the road,” Smith III said. “I knew he didn’t want me to stop just because he’s a little sick. I had to keep working.”

Smith III said he had to slow things down. If the team had practice at 2 p.m., he would show up at 12:30 p.m. in the batting cages with a bucket of balls doing tee work. Everyday, he made the effort to get 150 swings off the tee, and the extra work ultimately showed on the field for CWU head coach Desi Storey’s team.

“My main goal going into senior year was to see how good I could really be,” Smith III said. “I was going to work as hard as possible and see where I ended up.”

Smith III ended his senior year amongst the conference leaders in batting average (.368), hits (70), runs (54), slugging percentage (.642), doubles (20), RBI (48) and home runs (10). The high performance lead him to being selected as the GNAC player of the year. Teammate Justin Hampson and the rest of the team said this couldn’t have happened to a better person.

“I got a front row seat to some of the hardest hit balls that I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hampson said.

“You could see him maturing and the progress he made,” Storey said. “He’s such an athlete and has great work ethic.”

The MLB Draft

The month of June came around and it was time for the Major League Baseball draft Smith III was excited about the opportunity ahead.

“I was constantly checking my phone feeling like an hour would pass by so I’d check again but it had only been 15 minutes,” Smith III said.

However, that excitement came to a halt after the last round concluded and his name was not called.

“I was disappointed, not so much sad and breaking down, but that I had to call my mom and talk to her about what that meant,” Smith III said. “I was still proud that I accomplished something that a few years prior I didn’t think I’d have the opportunity to do, which was graduating from college.”

Smith III packed his belongings and went back home to California. His mom held a backyard barbecue to thank everyone for helping them through tough times.

“I was two or three days home already, I should have been happy. I don’t know why I was in a sour mood all day,” Smith III said.

All of a sudden Smith III’s phone rang with a call from the Philadelphia Phillies scout he had been talking to during the season. They offered him a chance to play for their organization, which created a smile from ear to ear on Smith III.

“It was pretty cool because we had everybody already there,” Smith III said. “It was a low-key signing party when I didn’t even know I was going to sign earlier.”

Gulf Coast League Phillies East

Smith III played his rookie season for the Gulf Coast League East last year for the Phillies. Like CWU, he started out cold going one for 21 at the plate before ultimately hitting .280 to finish the season.

“I kind of go back to that point at junior college, how failure allowed me to have more of a appreciation to the game,” Smith III said. “Just making sure that I don’t let people down like I did before.”

Smith III heads to spring training in Clearwater, Florida on Feb. 24. Afterward, he travels to Lakewood, New Jersey to play for the single A affiliate Lakewood BlueClaws.

“When I look around the facilities that I practice at now, I tell myself I’ve made it this far through everything I’ve been through,” Smith said. “Who says I can’t make it all the way?”

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