Hard work and maturity paying off for Blue Jays' backstop Smith

Photo: Emma Mason

Photo: Emma Mason

By: Emma Mason

Canadian Baseball Network

DUNEDIN, FLA. - When Ridge Smith was drafted in the 29th round by the Cleveland Indians in 2013, he politely declined the invitation.

There was no guarantee he’d get another chance.

This week, Smith was given the chance to attend another Major League camp. He took to the field Wednesday with the rest of the Toronto Blue Jays prospects at The Bobby Mattick Training Center at Englebert Complex.

When Smith was 12, his father and grandfather built a batting cage in his grandfather’s backyard where Smith practiced every day, setting him on the path to the big leagues.

At 18, Smith decided not to attend camp with the Indians; he thought he wasn’t ready.

“The main deciding factor with it was that I thought I was too young,” Smith said. “I thought I would fall flat on my face, so I decided to go to college and figure things out.”

Now at 21, the Cordova, Tenn., native thought it was time to give baseball a second chance.

The Blue Jays drafted him in the 12th round of the 2016 draft and assigned him to the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Rookie Appalachian League.

Smith’s greatest accomplishment in his baseball career so far is the first professional game he ever played.

“Getting drafted was awesome but once you’re actually there you’re like, ‘Wow I’m here playing professional baseball,’” he said.

Smith models his playing style after former Major League Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez.

“I like Pudge because he kind of reminded me of me a little bit,” Smith said.  “I mean he was a smaller guy and it just seemed like he had a good work ethic, was a very tough guy behind the plate and was a leader for his team.”

The best advice Smith has for kids working their way through the ranks is to work hard.

“I mean it sounds really cliché, but the biggest thing you can do is just work your butt off because that’s what it comes down to here,” Smith said. “Everybody’s talented, so it comes down to who’s working harder.”