SV grad, Rays' catcher Smith in limbo

March 14, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports


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Chicago White Sox's Kevan Smith looks skyward after scoring on his two-run home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Detroit.

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — Kevan Smith is a Major League Baseball catcher with no pitches to call, no runners to throw out and no fastballs to hit.

Like thousands of his peers, Smith is in limbo, wondering when he can put on the uniform and play again.

“It's kind of a weird feeling,” said Smith, a Seneca Valley graduate who is in camp with the Tampa Bay Rays.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the MLB on Thursday announced the cancelation of the remainder of spring training and that Opening Day would be postponed for at least two weeks.

The timing couldn't be worse for players like Smith, who are trying to latch on with a club after signing a Minor League deal.

Smith was having a strong spring, batting .263 with four RBI and working well with the Rays' pitching staff.

“We were in the part of Spring Training where you start to find out where you fit and you begin to be able to anticipate where you're going to be,” Smith said. “I've made a lot of strides. I feel stronger and healthier and now we have to take a pause.”

That pause leaves Smith with a lot of questions.

He hopes some of them will be answered soon.

One big thing Smith said that is on the mind of players is contracts and service time — which affects things like eligibility for arbitration and free agency.

“We're all holding tight right now,” Smith said. “The MLB and the union is getting together to try to figure out compensation.

“There's so many x-factors,” Smith added. “We were going to break camp and go to work out at Tropicana (in Tampa, Fla.) on the 20th.”

Smith and many of his teammates are remaining in Port Charlotte, even though baseball told them they could go home if they wished.

Smith said the team told them to keep their arms and legs loose and be ready to go when the time comes.

He hopes, though, there will be a second Spring Training.

“Baseball is not a sport where you can fly down and start playing games at a Big League stadium,” Smith said. “Pitchers need to build up their arms. Hitters need to see major league pitching.”

Smith has spent parts of four seasons in the majors. He batted .283 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 87 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2017 and hit .292 with three homers and 21 RBI in 52 games with Chicgao in 2018.

Last season with Anaheim, Smith battled injuries, but still batted .251 in 67 games with the Angels.

“They know I can hit,” Smith said of the Rays. “They're not worried about that. They want me to build relationships and work with as many pitchers as I possibly can.”

Smith is still working with Tampa Bay hurlers during the hiatus.

Even through the weirdness.

“It's kind of like we're in jail on vacation,” Smith said.

Smith has no idea when play will resume. It could be mid-April or it could be June before the sound of a baseball hitting Smith's mitt can be heard in major league stadiums.

Smith is trying to stay prepared for any contingency.

“I'm at least fortunate that I've played a couple of years and put my family in a good position,” Smith said. “It's the guys who are just about to break in or who are in the minors trying to climb up through the organization that I feel for right now. I feel for them because I've been there and I know how hard it is.”

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Mike Kilroy

Mike Kilroy

I joined the Butler Eagle in January of 2000 after spending five years at the Steubenville Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times, where I did everything from editing the sports section to knocking snow and ice off the Associated Press satellite dish. I graduated from Kent State University in 1994 with a degree in magazine journalism and a minor in skipping class. My honors include a 2007 Associated Press award for feature writing, a 2005 and 2007 Keystone award for column writing and a 2003 Golden Quill award for feature writing. I have a high game of 255 at Wii Bowling.