Sunday, July 30, 2006

Featured player Smith involved in trade

While Bobby Abreu was the big name involved in Sunday's trade deadline deals, the player who caught my attention was Matt Smith. I sat down with Smith in Birmingham in 2004 and he told me a story which was included in my book The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball.

Smith is on his way from the Yankees to the Phillies. MinorLeagueDugout.com wishes him the best of luck. Enjoy Smith's contribution to my book.

Mom Always Said, “Don’t Play Rough In The Shower”

Matt Smith is an example that not all baseball players are illiterate jocks. The Birmingham Barons pitcher left Southwest Missouri State in 1999 without a degree when he became the New York Mets 18th-round draft choice.

He’s already gone back and earned his business degree, which he may put to use in a baseball front office when he retires. Smith hopes that day is a long way away.
Smith has just finished stretching for the evening’s game against Jacksonville. As a short reliever he doesn’t have to worry about mentally preparing for the game for another four or five hours, giving Smith plenty of time to think about his other hobbies: golf, weightlifting and reading.

“Lots of guys read,” Smith said. “You’d be surprised how many guys sit down on a bus ride and pull out a book. You get tired of watching the same old videos over and over.”

Though Smith does not come across as religious, he is enthralled by books about the Bible – including Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” A product of Marquette Catholic High School in Alton, Illinois, Smith has traveled to Rome and visited Vatican City. He says books like “The Da Vinci Code” that deal with Bible codes bring another interesting perspective to religion.

Smith got a little clubhouse perspective in 2002. His call up to Double-A was a blessing until a couple of shower incidents had Smith searching for divine intervention.

Matt Smith: I came up to Birmingham from Winston-Salem and this guy named Jake Meyer was in the bullpen. We’re in West Tennessee the first night and we got rained out. We were all getting in the shower. I’m taking my shower and Meyer dumps a bucket of ice water on me and says, “Welcome to the bullpen.”

The next day another pitcher, Brian West, who played football at LSU, came up to me and said, “You’re not going to let him get away with that, are you?”
I said, “All right, we’ll get him back.”

He said, “Jake usually takes a shower at 5:00 (p.m.) before the game. Get a bucket of ice water and throw it on him in the shower. Once you do it, just run back to your locker and act like you don’t know what’s going on.”

I go around into the shower, nail him with the water and sprint back to my locker. There was this wooden shampoo [holder] in the middle of the shower. As soon as I threw it, I heard this big crash in the shower. I was like, “What was that?”
Everybody starts looking in the shower and starts yelling for the trainer, Joe Geck. They’re like, “Joe come out here to the shower.”

I’m sitting at my locker wondering what the hell’s the matter.

Two guys are carrying [Meyer] out of the shower. He has blood pouring down and he’s soaking wet. He has blood coming down from his hair. He has real dark hair and it looks like he has this real big gash in his head.

They went to the manager and said, “We have to get him to the hospital. We have to get him stitched up.” I thought he was going to kill me.

Wally Backman, our manager, comes out. “What the hell is going on?” he starts [yelling]. “You guys have been messing around all year. I knew something would happen. Who did it?”

Everybody points at me.

I said, “Wally, I didn’t mean to do anything.”

He starts chewing my ass – getting in my face about doing stupid stuff. I was like,
“God, I’m going [to be sent] home.”

Jake starts getting up and he’s looking at me like he’s going to come at me. The guys are holding him back.

Wally says, “Let him go. He’s got to do what he’s got to do.”

So he comes at me. Then he puts his hand out and puts a tube of fake blood in my hand.

Everybody just lost it. They have pictures. I was so happy. I was so in shock I didn’t know what was going on. I was just so relieved. I didn’t care about the whole [payback] thing. It was the most elaborate, choreographed prank I’ve ever heard of.

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