BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Kevan Smith was overwhelmed during his trip to Chicago.
After playing in an exhibition game March 14 in Milwaukee, Smith said that Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn took him and a few guys out.
“It’s unbelievable. The city is huge,” said Smith, a 26-year-old Seneca Valley graduate. “I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that I didn’t even get to sniff.”
It served as a springboard for Smith, who is in his first season of catching with the White Sox’s Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons.
Smith has spent most of his first season in Double-A making opposing Southern League pitchers fear him. He is batting .320 with four home runs and 22 RBI in 47 games. His batting average is 10 points higher than anyone else in the White Sox’s farm system.
Defensive improvement is his big focus.
“Results don’t show what is going on behind the scenes. Not catching for three years set me back,” Smith said. “I’m consistently happy with how I’m progressing and handling the pitching staff.”
Managing pitchers is a big part of his focus. Smith says he uses all stats available to call games.
“It’s one of those things you can’t look too deep into,” Smith said about all the information available. “That’s something I like to let the game dictate. If I see a guy is late on a fastball, I will call another fastball. Why let their bat slow down with a slider or changeup?”
Smith is still glad he played football. That’s why when he started to play in front of bigger crowds (10 to 15, 000 people) he wasn’t intimidated. Smith started in front of 85,000 people as a quarterback for Pitt at Michigan State in 2004.
“A lot of people say, ‘Why didn’t you play baseball right away?” Smith said. “Physically, it got me faster and stronger. Mentally, playing in front of those big crowds was an eye-opener for me.”
He’s hoping to parlay his good play into a spot in the majors. That way he can explore his full potential — and the rest of Chicago.
“The higher you get, the more you start facing logjams. You can’t worry about what other guys are doing,” Smith said. “The things I can control are how I play on the field and what I do to prepare myself.”