The son of a member of the Braves’ 1995 World Series champions may be the first Georgia high school player selected in this year’s major-league baseball draft, which starts Monday.
McIntosh outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. carries the same name as the former Braves outfielder. He has signed a baseball scholarship with Georgia Tech, is touted as one of the “best pure hitters” out of the high school ranks and is projected to be drafted in the top two rounds.
One year after the state produced an astounding five high school players drafted in the first round, it might have only a couple selected next week. Berrien outfielder Larry Greene and Stratford Academy outfielder Tyler Gibson, son of the Mercer baseball coach, also are highly rated prospects.
Meanwhile, Tech left-handed pitcher Jed Bradley is a consensus top-10 pick.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Smith looks a lot like his father, who played eight years in the majors, including stints with the Cubs, Angels and Orioles. He retired after the 1996 season with the Braves.
“I didn’t have me teaching me at a young age and grooming me,” Dwight Sr. said with a laugh.
“He has a beautiful swing and is going to have more power than me. I think with the speed, he’s eventually going to be faster than me. He is very sound fundamentally with his offense and defense. More than that, he carries himself in a good manner. I’m more proud of that than his baseball accomplishments.”
Dwight Jr. played all four years at McIntosh, where his hitting coach was another former Braves outfielder, Terry Harper. Naturally, though, his biggest baseball influence has been his father. Dwight’s first baby steps were at Wrigley Field when his father played for the Cubs.
“My father has taught me everything about the game, from defense, base running and hitting — and especially the mental part,” Dwight Jr. said. “You really need the mental part to play this game every day. You have to have a short memory because 162 games will really wear on you.”
Said Tech coach Danny Hall: “He’s an outstanding baseball player and can really hit. He just plays the game the right way. You can tell his dad has mentored him. He plays the right way and carries himself the right way.”
Since retiring from baseball, the elder Smith has focused on raising his family with his wife, Cheryl. The couple has been married 20 years, with Dwight Jr. the oldest of three children, along with younger sisters Taylor and Shannyn.
“I might mention that Cheryl is the backbone of this family,” Dwight Sr. said. “She has worked hard to keep us all intact. My son has got a mother that went through the minor leagues and major leagues with me, so he’s packed with baseball knowledge.”
The elder Smith has called the Atlanta area his home since 1990, long before the two-year stint with Braves, because “Chicago was too cold in the winter.”
Because of the father’s professional career, the son has always had high baseball expectations placed upon him. Dwight Jr. said it has been both a blessing and a curse, but something he relishes.
“When I succeed, people expect it,” he said. “When I don’t, they expect that I should. But I like having a target on my back. At the end of the day, I feel like I play my game and try not to be anybody else but myself.”
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog Got a recruiting item? firstname.lastname@example.org
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