Athletics // 6.12.18
It was a phone call that was hoped for, but unknown if it would come as Cody Smith was coaching in the North Charleston dugout on Thursday evening.
The recently graduated right-handed pitcher had been checking updates throughout the day to keep up with the latest on the MLB Draft. However, as game time approached, he put the phone away to focus on the task at hand; winning another ball game with his Dixie team.
"I had been checking Twitter and seeing updates as to who was getting picked," Smith admitted with a laugh. "It was getting kind of late and I put my phone away to start focusing more on the game, and then my phone rang. It was the Pittsburgh Pirates scout and he asked what I was doing. After that, he said, 'Well son, we just drafted you in the 39th round. Congratulations, you're going to be a Pirate.'"
"It was a quick conversation and very blunt," he continued. "It all happened so fast."
Playing at the next level had always been a goal of Smith's. Graduating from nearby Goose Creek High School and coming to Charleston Southern was the natural step for the 6-0 athlete to achieve those goals.
"Through my recruiting process, I liked Coach (Stuart) Lake and Coach (Adam) Ward," Smith said. "It was close to home; that was probably one of the biggest things to me. It was a local school and very comfortable. The small classes and the ability to learn and work with the Kinesiology professors was great. Everyone was just all down to earth and it felt right when I went on my visit."
Smith had the opportunity to play professionally after a junior season that concluded with him earning 2017 Big South All-Conference Second Team honors and finishing among the conference leaders in saves. However, sticking around for his senior season and getting his college degree, as well as developing a third pitch, was something the closer wanted to focus on.
"I was a guy with a lot of swing-and-miss stuff," Smith said. "The first three years I essentially relied on two pitches (fastball and slider) and was a strikeout guy, so my role at the end of games allowed me to pitch more and more effectively at the time. This year I put an emphasis on gaining a third pitch (splitter) and getting ahead of the hitter."
"I had the opportunity to play professional baseball last year, but getting the degree was the top thing in my mind," he continued. "I came back and accomplished that and it was a big weight lifted off my shoulders. Now baseball is going to take over and we'll see where that goes."
There were moments during his senior season that Smith was not sure the opportunity to play at the next level would come. However, that did not stop him from enjoying the season as it came.
"Throughout this past season, I knew my college career was coming to an end," Smith said. "Getting a win this season against Georgia is going to be a lifetime memory, as well as getting a win at South Carolina. Getting an opportunity to get back out there on the field again and compete; it's a good feeling to get to keep doing what I love."
Head Coach Adam Ward has seen Smith's progress over the last four seasons that led up to his Draft Day recognition.
"I'm very happy for Cody," Ward commented. "He had a really good career for us and was a part of a lot of big wins. The Pirates organization is getting a talented player that will work hard and compete every time he is on the mound. I am excited to follow his progress in his professional baseball career."
Ward continued, "Cody's velocity and the quality of his secondary stuff improved in his time at CSU because of his work ethic and willingness to learn. His progression led to him being one of the top closers in our conference as a junior and senior."
Smith also gives a lot of credit for his development to the relationships he has built over the last four seasons with Ward and pitching coach George Schaefer.
"Coach Ward went from being my pitching coach to my head coach during the four years I was here," Smith said. "We're pretty close and it's not your traditional head coach-athlete relationship. Coach Schaefer is very outgoing and not afraid to speak his mind. He was always more concerned about me getting better and on myself and the staff to be the best we can be. It's been fantastic working with them over the last four seasons and getting close to both coaches."
Smith has had the ability to rely on a former CSU athlete and teammate who went through the draft process recently. Former alum and 2017 MLB Draft pick Chris Singleton has already reached out with congratulations and advice on the next steps of the professional process.
"Chris texted me as soon as he found out," Smith commented. "He congratulated me and told me to enjoy the process. We've been texting back and forth over the last few days mainly with me asking questions on what it's like and what to expect."
When he reports to the Pirates over the coming weeks, Smith will be fulfilling a lifelong dream of getting to play professional baseball.
"When I graduated high school, I dreamed of playing professionally," Smith said. "I went through the last three years and had the opportunity to get better each year. CSU is a great place to come and get playing time and get better. The coaching staff puts their time and effort into developing players and I feel like they've done a great job."
As for his future with the Pirates, Smith is just looking forward to the next steps, whatever that will mean.
"We haven't really talked much about the details, but I did get a call asking if I could leave Monday or Tuesday," Smith said. "I think whatever role I'll be in will be similar to Charleston Southern, but if they need anything, I want to be able to help them out."