Dwight Smith Jr. made his major league debut in his hometown of Atlanta Thursday.
It wasn’t your ordinary call up to the big leagues for Dwight Smith Jr. The 2012 Vancouver Canadians outfielder was summoned to join the Toronto Blue Jays for their series finale against his hometown Atlanta Braves, one of the four teams his father played for. The 24 year-old from Peachtree City, Georgia was promoted from the Buffalo Bisons under unusual circumstances. Smith got a plane ticket to Atlanta after 2011 Vancouver Canadian Kevin Pillar received a two-game suspension for a homophobic slur directed at Braves reliever Jason Motte Wednesday night.
Dwight Smith Jr. was a member of the 2012 Northwest League champion Vancouver Canadians.
Under National League rules with the pitcher batting, it was expected that Smith was going to enter the game at some point as a pinch-hitter or as a late-game defensive replacement. Instead, he was pressed into action when Darrell Ceciliani suffered a partially dislocated left shoulder on a home run swing in the third inning. After a 35-minute rain delay, Smith entered the game in left field wearing #15 for Ezequiel Carrera, who shifted over to center to replace Ceciliani in the bottom of the third.
Smith’s first at-bat came a lot sooner than expected when the first five men in the lineup hit safely in the top of the fourth. Luke Maile and 2012 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Marcus Stroman connected for back-to-back home runs. Carrera walked before Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales followed with back-to-back singles to score Carrera. All of a sudden, it was time for Smith to dig into the left-handed side of the batter’s box for the first time.
On the mound was Braves lefthander Sam Freeman, who relieved starter Julio Teheran after he walked Carrera. Smith took an 82 mile-per-hour curve for a ball and wound up watching the first five pitches go by to work the count full. He fouled off three straight fastballs at 95 MPH before watching an 86 MPH splitter miss low in the strike zone for ball four to load up the bases. He would be erased at second base on an inning-ending double play from Darwin Barney but it was an eventful first full inning in the bigs for Smith.
Dwight Smith Jr. drew a walk in his first major league at-bat Thursday.
Smith’s second at-bat only lasted one-third of the time as the first as Freeman struck him out on three pitches, using an changeup at 85 MPH to get ahead before getting Smith to chase two curves that clocked in at 85 and 82. His third and final at-bat came against righty Josh Collmenter and he took a page out of Freeman’s book by not throwing Smith a fastball. Collmenter found the strike zone with two sliders at 85 to get ahead before missing with a curve at 76 and another slider at 85. Smith swung the bat on the fifth pitch, another slider, and that resulted in a groundout to short.
Defensively, Smith did not have to worry about a thing as not one ball was hit to him during his seven innings in left field. He had time to take in the sights and sounds of brand new SunTrust Park in an eventual 9-0 victory for the Blue Jays.
The 5-foot-11 outfielder was grateful for getting the call to the bigs.
Fellow 2012 C’s outfielder Dalton Pompey also tweeted a welcome to the bigs message to Smith.
Smith’s arrival to the bigs was also saluted through the Blue Jays minor league system.
It was not an easy road to get to the big leagues for Smith as he made the slow and steady climb from Bluefield and Vancouver in 2012 all the way to the bigs in 2017.
Smith and his father now have at least have two things in common – both were drafted by the Blue Jays (the elder Smith was selected by Toronto in the third round of the January 1984 draft but did not sign) and both have played major league baseball in the state of Georgia. The younger Smith hopes he can match one more of his Dad’s accomplishments – a World Series ring, which Senior won with Atlanta in 1996.
Born two days after the Blue Jays won the 1992 World Series, Smith hopes to play a role in leading Toronto back to the promised land some day.