Former University of Maryland infielder Kevin Smith made his MLB debut with the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this summer, joining two other former Terps in the big leagues. For Smith, being a member of that exclusive club has earned him a sense of pride and confidence.
The East Greenbush, N.Y., native was drafted by the Blue Jays in 2017 after three productive seasons at Maryland (2015-2017). He spent parts of four seasons in the minor leagues before making his debut Aug. 18.
Prior to being optioned to Triple-A Buffalo Sept. 10, Smith was one of three Terps in the big leagues along with San Francisco Giants outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. and Tampa Bay Rays infielder Brandon Lowe. Lefty reliever Adam Kolarek has spent parts of the last five seasons in the big leagues but is currently with Triple-A Las Vegas (Oakland Athletics).
Wade is enjoying the best season of his major-league career. Lowe earned his first All-Star Game bid this summer and has mashed 17 home runs to date this year. Kolarek is a World Series champion. If you ask Smith, Maryland is more than capable of producing talented players who can put it all together in The Show.
“Just going there and the culture that they bring and the guys you’re around, the energy they have day in day out — whatever happens after your time at Maryland, you’re going to be set up pretty well,” Smith said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 8. “I talk to a lot of guys that are thinking about going there, especially New York or the Northeast.
“Obviously baseball-wise you’re going to be set, but from a school standpoint, from a character standpoint, from a culture standpoint [as well] with the people that are around you. The campus is awesome. There’s not really a better place I would pick in the Northeast and maybe the country.”
Smith’s time at Maryland has paid dividends. He rocketed through the Blue Jays’ farm system and is currently listed as the club’s No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline. He collected his first big-league hit in his first career start and tallied his first long ball the following week against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
“You’re in awe of everything and you’re just trying to soak it in. You’ve finally got to a point where you’ve been dreaming you’d get for your whole life” Smith said of his debut. “To finally get there and look back on what it took, the whole journey from New York and, obviously, down to Maryland and through the minor leagues, it’s definitely something special.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Smith got off to a 3-for-32 start in the bigs in 36 plate appearances before he was optioned back to Triple-A Buffalo on Sept. 10. But Smith has proven his ability to spray the ball all over the field throughout his professional career. Before his call-up to Toronto, he slashed .286/.371/.576 with 19 homers, 23 doubles and four triples in 82 games with Triple-A Buffalo this year.
For now, Smith hopes to help the Jays complete a strong second half of the 2021 season and make a playoff push. Fortunately for Smith, he had plenty of postseason experience while at Maryland.
His 2015 season was the perfect example of Smith shining under pressure. He slashed .273/.358/.422 with seven home runs in 66 games to help the Terps make a run to the Super Regionals. He ratcheted up the power numbers in 2017, hitting .268/.323/.552 with 13 homers en route to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
“I went to Maryland after they went to the [Super Regional in 2014], and we got everybody back on that great team,” Smith said. “That’s kind of what I’m used to. I went to Maryland and we were expecting to go to Omaha and we came up one or two games short.”
“That’s kind of what I’ve been through my whole life. That’s what I like. I love winning and competing for titles and rings and championships,” he added. “… That’s just the culture I’ve built, starting in high school and college.”
As such, Smith is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to bring the Toronto Blue Jays to a wild-card berth.
“For me, I want to win,” Smith said. “Whatever I can do, if it’s a little role, if it’s a big role, whatever I can do to help the team win games, win games for the city that you’re from and for everyone supporting you, that’s what it’s all about.”
For more from Smith, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Toronto Blue Jays