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Appy notes: Smith blistering for Bristol07/14/2011 10:00 AM ET
By Bob Sutton / Special to MLB.com
Kevan Smith wasn't always committed to baseball, but he's wasting no time proving he belongs. The former quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh has been a standout at the plate and a rock behind it for the Bristol White Sox just weeks after he was a seventh-round draftee.
It's rare for a five-year college student to land a spot so high in the Draft, but the 23-year-old catcher said, after some time away from competitive baseball during his school days, he found his return to the diamond to be just the right thing.
"It was like riding a bike when I came back," said Smith, who began playing baseball at Pitt as a red-shirt sophomore. "I have a lot of untapped ability that I'm excited about."
Through the first few weeks of the Appalachian League season, Smith has been among the top hitters in the circuit. He played baseball during the last three seasons for Pittsburgh after realizing that it was a better option for him than football.
But perhaps some of those football instincts have carried into his baseball career. After all, he said he's unfazed playing in front of crowds after lining up as Pittsburgh's quarterback for road games against the likes of Michigan State and Notre Dame.
"It's unreal how much I can block out now," he said of eliminating distractions. "I've always been the guy who was the quarterback."
He started three games at quarterback in 2007, but his role eventually eroded so he turned to baseball.
"It was time to turn the page," he said.
If there were detours along the way, it hasn't been evident since he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox organization.
"He came in and since Day 1 he has been a bright spot," Bristol manager Pete Rose Jr. said.
When the White Sox drafted Smith, he said it validated the decisions made about his college path.
"I'm very grateful for what the White Sox have done for me," Smith said. "I set a little personal goal. I kind of wanted to be that [college] senior who could get drafted high."
At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, the right-handed hitter strikes an impressive pose when he steps into the batter's box. Yet he has been a batter who hits for average rather than power. He said he's aiming to add punch to his swing to extend his offensive production.
"Get a little more juice in my bat," he said. "I pride myself on not striking out. ... I'm a big creature of habit. You can't force anything."
Yet making adjustments has been part of Smith's makeup, including a mid-college change in sports. Maybe that helped the transition into the Appalachian League.
"I didn't really know what to expect," Smith said. "I was kind of going into it blind. I took my same approach, everything the same. You have to tweak that mind-set a little bit."
So far, he has found the right touch. To his manager, the leadership that Smith displays doesn't necessarily come from his quarterbacking background, because it looks so natural.
"He has a lot of leadership qualities," Rose said. "He's just that type. You can tell."
He's got their number: Princeton Rays first baseman Cameron Seitzer has three home runs this year, and each of them came in a different series opener against the Burlington Royals. The son of Kansas City Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, he belted his first professional homer against Burlington's Nick Graffeo, his step-brother. "He went out and battled and I did, too, and I happened to win the battle," Seitzer said.
Watts swats: First baseman Murray Watts hit his ninth home run of the season in the 20th game for the Burlington Royals. That's one short of the Burlington single-season record in the five seasons in which the Royals have been the affiliate. Former shortstop Kyle Martin hit 10 homers for Burlington in 2007.
Rollin' Rollins: Bluefield Blue Jays left-hander David Rollins allowed only three runs in his first four outings, covering 21 2/3 innings, as he built a 3-0 record in his first professional season. He yielded only 12 hits during that span. Two of them were solo home runs, accounting for two-thirds of the runs surrendered.
Keep on running: It's no wonder that Johnson City Cardinals outfielder Steven Ramos was the first player in the league to score 25 runs this season. Though he plays for a hot-hitting team, he's also done his part by stealing a league-high 13 bases without being caught.