Smith's dream was to play baseball for Bulldogs

Staff Writer

It was always a dream for Brandon Smith to be a Mississippi State Bulldog since he was a kid.

As a star baseball player at Richland High, Smith began to see his hard work paying off with interest from college programs around the Southeast. In state programs Southern Miss and Ole Miss came calling, but it was a call in late September of 2016 that changed his life as his beloved Bulldogs had a spot for him.

Smith has since held true to his end of the bargain and performed at a high level with the Rangers. As a junior, the infielder batted .454 with 20 RBI, 13 doubles, three triples and two home runs. He followed that up with a .523 season as a senior with five homers and 28 RBI this past season.

While he has played strong in the field and been a pure hitter at the plate, it’s on the mound where his future may be. Smith struck out 78 batters this season in 55.2 innings with a 0.50 ERA with just 23 hits allowed and eight walks.

It led to some interest from Major League teams, but he wasn’t too interested.

“I had a few teams reach out to me about the draft, but what I was wanting to go for was not what they thought I was worth,” Smith said. “I grew up a Mississippi State fan and I’ve always wanted to play at Dudy Noble Field. (Scouts) liked my size and my form and how I have room to grow, but I’m not ready to go pro just yet so I’m perfectly happy to go to school.”

So now, where does Smith play?

It’s a good problem to have for the MSU coaches and one that they’ll likely mess around with come fall when they’re able to put the players on the field. Smith is fine wherever he goes, but if given the choice, he’ll take the mound. With a fastball already sitting anywhere from 89-92 miles per hour and a changeup and curveball already in his arsenal, he’s off to a good start.

“I feel most comfortable pitching because I can go up there and command,” Smith said. “I think I’ll be used mainly as a pitcher but they told me that I can come up there and have a shot at competing for a position at third base. I definitely feel like I can throw some innings either as a starter or a reliever.”

Smith will have a different coach to make that decision after committing to John Cohen, then being committed under two more different coaches in Andy Cannizaro and Gary Henderson. Smith was good with whoever Cohen chose for the next head coach, but he’s already liking the selection.

Former Indiana coach Chris Lemonis was hired recently and Smith talked to him briefly on the phone for the first time last week.

“He introduced himself and talked about his plans as head coach and what he wants to do with us,” Smith said of Lemonis. “He’s really excited about our class coming in and thinks we can do some big things. Other than that, it was very brief, but I’m ready to get up there this weekend and get to know him more.”

College began this week for most of the nation’s No. 3 signing class. Smith was one of those that enrolled for the second summer session and he’s ready to finally put most of the group together on one field.

“We’ve been talking and catching up with each other," Smith said. "We’re staying in touch and hope that everyone will be a part of something special. I feel we can be really special on the mound, hitting and defensively. On top of that, it’s a blessing to be able to play in the new park. It really feels like it was made for our class.”