Smith getting sneak peek at college game
Matt Smith is experiencing what baseball will be like at the next level.
Smith, who recently graduated from Johnstown-Monroe High School, has been playing against top-level competition as he prepares for the college game at Bowling Green State University.
He competed in the Mizuno All-Ohio Series on June 8 and 9 before leaving Sunday, June 17, to play with Team Ohio in the Heartland Classic in Norman, Okla.
"(The Mizuno Series) was a great experience because I finally got to see kids play that I have read about over the past few years," Smith said. "You see them in the leaders for batting average and home runs and you get to see what they are really like. And I got to play with players from Cleveland, Ashland, Cincinnati ... players from every part of the state."
The event was held at V.A. Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe. Players were split into four 20-player teams that played a round-robin schedule.
"With 20 kids on a team, it was hard to get at-bats because everyone played," said Smith, who went 2-for-5 with two singles. "The competition was tough and the pitching was really good. Everyone pretty much threw in the upper 80s (mph)."
Smith said difficult competition would be the norm when he plays in the Mid-American Conference.
"You don't normally get to see the pitching and the game speed like it will be in college," said Smith, who played catcher and outfield at Johnstown. "You don't get to see what we saw down there (in Chillicothe) every day. There were 20 or 30 kids down there with (Division I) scholarships, and that was pretty cool. It will give me an idea of what I will be seeing in the MAC next year."
Johnstown coach Tony Cleveland said the experience would prove to be invaluable for Smith.
"I think Matt gained exposure to people who didn't get to see him play (in high school)," Cleveland said. "He got to see some quality pitching the whole time he was there and that will be invaluable for him as he gets ready to go to Bowling Green."
Team Ohio begins play Tuesday, June 19, in the eight-team Heartland Classic. Opponents include teams from Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Oklahoma and Texas.
Cleveland is serving as an assistant to Toledo Central Catholic's Jeff Mielcarek, who is Team Ohio's head coach.
"Going out with Team Ohio, Matt will get to see the top players in the nation," Cleveland said. "We had seven guys on last year's team that played for Kent State this spring and they are (playing in) the College World Series. It's neat to see guys who play for you go on to do well."
Smith was first-team all-state, the district Player of the Year in Division III and first-team all-MBC this spring. He hit .547 (52-for-95) with 19 doubles, two home runs, one triple, 22 RBI, 30 runs and 12 stolen bases. He struck out only three times.
"I think going out (to Oklahoma) to play will be pretty neat," said Smith, who also plays for the U18 Columbus Cobras summer team. "It can only help me as I get ready for college baseball."