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Smith making moves as a rookie - Chatham Star Tribune: Sports

Smith making moves as a rookie

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Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2017 8:15 am

His first year of playing in minor league baseball is everything he expected it to be. Outfielder Justin Smith so far this season has landed 12 hits in 40 at-bats, and he holds a .300 batting average.

“This year is going pretty even for me,” Smith said. “There are “ups” and “downs” through the whole thing. Nothing extremely special has happened, we’ve won same games here and lost some there but I think we’re going to pick it up soon.”

In eight games spanning from June 30 to July 14, Smith has driven in five RBIs, landed 11 hits and his most at-bats in a game was on July 14 against Princeton when he stepped up to the plate five times for the Braves.

Smith, a native of St. Johns, Florida, began his college baseball career at the University of Miami in 2015. In high school he was ranked 51st as a national high school prospect by Perfect Game and he was ranked 43rd as a high school prospect by Baseball America. He was also named Perfect Game First Team All-American in four seasons from 2011-2014.

As a freshman with the Hurricanes, Smith played in 24 games and started three of them. His first three starts were against N.C. State as a designated hitter, Army as an outfielder and he started against Duke. After his freshman season, he transferred to Saint Johns River State College in Palatka, Florida where he continued his career as a college baseball player.

“I had a good year last year in junior college,” Smith said. “I got drafted out of there and won player of the year for my conference there.”

Smith said he played both basketball and football as well as baseball when he was younger.

“When I was younger I would sign up for things,” Smith said. “I just wanted to play. Everyone in my family played football so I played that for awhile. When I stopped playing football I focused on baseball.”

Smith said early in high school he picked up basketball, which he played until the end of his sophomore year. At the start of his junior year in high school he finally decided that baseball was the game he wanted to focus on.

He said when he was younger he played in multiple different positions and event did some pitching when he played in high school. Through college and now with the Braves, Smith plays as an outfielder. While he doesn’t have a preference to where in the outfield he is, he feels that it’s where he’s most comfortable.

“Hitting is the thing I’m best at,” Smith said. “That’s what I like the most about the game. I like to hit. I like the whole game overall. There are failures in it, there are ups and downs but there is a lot of adversity throughout the whole thing.”

Smith currently has one of the top five batting averages on the team with a .279. He said in practice, he focuses on getting better at hitting and tightening up his swings.

“I just keep working every day,” Smith said. “In baseball, you’re going to fail a lot but if you lower your slip-up rate, you’ll do well and be fine. You have “ups” and “downs” and you’ve got to push through it.”

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