By Bob Elliott
Tim Smith has not shaved in nine months.
It’s not like he’s waiting for a special order to arrive from the Gilette factory.
He may look like he is auditioning for a spot with ZZ Top, but he, his thick black bushy beard and his bat are looking to help Canada defends its Pan American Games gold medal.
Play begins Saturday at noon with Cuba meeting Colombia, then Team USA faces Puerto Rico and Canada opens against the Dominican Republic at 7 o’clock at President’s Choice Field in Ajax.
The growing process, hey we all have to grow as people, began late last season when his Les Capitales de Quebec teammate Shawn Sanford began boasting about the red beard he was sporting.
“It was on, we were trying to out do each other,” said Smith in Cary, N.C. this week.
Smith, the outfielder-DH and the right-hander Sanford were in a battle of beards.
Sanford would have to go some to beat Smith.
Beard witnesses -- we were unable to find any eye witnesses -- guessed actual length to be either six or eight inches. Since our new owners Post Media does not give us proper equipment to take on the road -- zero measuring tapes-- you’ll have to make your own determination or measurement when you see Smith in Ajax.
The length of Smith’s beard has also been described by one player as “longer than the combined hair on the heads of our coaches.”
Mike Napoli had a long bushy beard as the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 Series. Washington Nationals’ Jayson Werth still looks like he emerged from a year lost in the mountains with his growth and messy long hair.
“Mine is sort of like Brian Wilson’s,” said Smith referring to the former San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers reliever.
Told that Wilson dyed his beard, Smith said with a twinkle: “there might be some work on this one ... Just For Men.”
Wilson helped the Giants win the World Series five years ago.
And now Smith try to help Canada duplicate what the red and white achieved in Lagos de Moreno, Mex., edging Team USA 2-1 for gold on the eve of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.
The beard drew attention when Smith arrived for Canada’s initial workout on Sunday at the USA National Training Center in Cary, N.C.
Someone said “who is the guy with the Smith Brothers Cough Drops beard? ... Wait a second, it’s Tim Smith.”
And it draws attention when Smith and the Capitales make rounds of the Canadian-American Association or play interlocking games against American Association cities.
One night playing the Sioux Falls Canaries at Sioux Falls Stadium in South Dakota, Smith was in the outfield when a ball took a bad hop, came up and hit him near the face.
“Some fan yelled “where’s the ball, where’s the ball? Oh, it’s in Smith’s beard.’ Later I pretended I was pulling a ball out of my beard,” said Smith.
Smith says he gets a beard comment either from a catcher or a first baseman, every time he comes to the plate or reaches base.
When Les Capitales and Smith are at home playing at Le Stade Municipal, where they own the second highest attendance in the league (2,438 fans per night), Smith is a fan fave.
He’s called 'Le Barbu' (the Beard) at the park or walking down the street.
“Every time I come out of the dugout into the on-deck circle two season’s tickets holders with beards come down and talk to me,” said Smith, who used to have a Rollie Fingers handle bar moustache as well.
“Unless I had it waxed, it would get it the way of the food.”
A Toronto resident, Smith played for Team Ontario before attending Midland College and then Arizona State where he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the seventh round. He played three seasons in the Rangers system, two with the Kansas City Royals and one in the Atlanta Braves system, spending four seasons at double-A.
He joined the Winnipeg Goldeyes in 2013 and was in Quebec last year and this season, where he is hitting .268 with one homer and 16 RBIs.
During the three games in Cary, Smith was hitless in eight at bats with two strikeouts, one walk and one run scored.
Manager Ernie Whitt hopes to find a few hits inside Smith’s beard.
One for the scrapbook: After Cuba beat Canada 4-1 on Wednesday Cuba’s DH Frederich Cepeda came to the Canadian dugout to ask to have his picture taken with both Canadian coach Larry Walker and Whitt.
Cepeda, 35, plays for the Yomiuri Giants, where his teammate is former Philadelphia Phillies reliever Scott Mathieson, of Aldergrove, B.C.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Cepeda leapt against the fence to steal an extra-base hit from Kevin Nicholson with runners aboard for the final out ending Canada’s gold medal hopes.
Cepeda is coming to Ajax.