Sometimes, stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. Tim Smith, one of Northwest Arkansas’ top hitters this season, is Canadian. So naturally, he grew up playing hockey first – baseball was just a secondary sport in the summertime. He said he dreamed of someday making it to the NHL. But by age 16 or so, Smith started playing baseball competitively, and he was good at it.
This winter, Smith is sharing his hitting skills with baseball players of all levels by teaching lessons at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, Arkansas, the home of the Naturals.
Those who sign up should be prepared to have a good time. Smith explains: “When you play the game for a living, it can sometimes become very stressful. When you see these kids laughing, running around everywhere with smiles it makes you think ‘That’s the way I should feel every time I come to the yard,’ regardless of my age.” So he teaches in a manner that he describes as fun and loose, with lots of joking around. “I don’t want to teach like a robot,” Smith said. “I want these kids and parents to take in the moment and have fun with it, because that’s what its’s all about.”
This is the first time that Smith has taught lessons on his own, but he has helped other instructors and been a part of many baseball camps over the years.
Smith’s stats indicate that he knows a thing or two about hitting – he was in the Top 5 in basically every category for NW Ark this season, including the top spot in batting average. And although he slugged over .500 this year, he doesn’t think of himself as a power hitter. Thanks to a consistent .300+ average, Smith tags himself as a contact hitter. “I have the ability to drive the ball but my ultimate goal is to get on first base any way I can. Whether it be a bunt for a hit, walk, hit by pitch, you name it, that’s my short term goal, just to reach first base any way possible,” Smith said. “I think my ability to hit for a good average every season strives off of two things. The ability to use the whole field and minimal strike outs.”
Smith, originally a Texas farmhand, was brought to the Royals in trade in the fall of 2009. Kansas City sent Danny Gutierrez and, in return, received Smith and catcher Manuel Pina. Here’s Smith’s story of the day of the trade, in his own words:
I was actually playing with Team Canada the day I was traded. We were in NC playing an exhibition series against Team USA before the 2009 Baseball World Cup. I turned my phone on after the game and the thing wouldn’t stop blowing up with texts, missed calls and voicemails. I was kind of scared, thinking the worst for some reason that something serious had happened to a close one. But once I dipped into the texts I realized I was traded. It was funny too because the rangers share the same complex with the royals, so I was literally changing parking lots come spring training.
What are Tim Smith’s goals for 2012? He doesn’t have any – not exactly. “I’ve learned that chasing certain numbers and stats just becomes a distraction and is mentally draining,” he said. “I just want to stay healthy and really enjoy myself out there giving it my all. I’m hoping I will get my shot at Omaha, but that is not my decision and something I can’t dwell on too much. All I know is that I will prepare myself for it, and do the best I can if the opportunity is at hand.”
In the meantime, you can find Smith at Arvest Ballpark, perhaps giving you or your child a lesson. Ideally, anyone could take them, but Smith said one thing is off-limits: Softball. “I wish I had the knowledge to teach softball, but it’s a different game and a different science to me.”