Seven-Time All Star Lee Smith: The Interview

Guest Blog: Part 2

I know I promised in last week’s post that I’d share the transcript of my interview with Lee Smith. In the short amount of time we had to talk, Smith shared with me his craziest fan story, recommendation to those who may have strayed from baseball’s fan base, and who his “best friends in baseball” are.

What is your craziest fan story?

Oh my goodness. I don’t have very many fan stories. The one I can think of was a guy by the name of Jack Wallig. He helped me out at a game in Wrigley. I’ll never forget Von Hayes was on first base, Juan Samuel was on second base, facing Mike Schmidt. Schmidt hits the ball off me, we got a one run lead, and I go to back up home plate, and there’s a guy standing behind there. He has a beer in his hand. Here comes Juan Samuel with the tying run, Von Hayes comes in for the go-ahead run. So when Samuel comes over the plate, he backs over, and he tells Von Hayes he don’t have to slide.

Well, this guy standing back there with the beer tells me he missed home plate. So, I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m already losing the game, so I go back out and am thinking about it and go to the mound come to step, step off, and I peel the runner, umpire calls him out.

So I go from a blown save, to a loss, back to a save, so it was a great situation with a fan.

That’s the craziest thing on the field, nothing really happened to me off the field. I was a loner, a homebody.

Over the years, there’s been a lot of talk that a lot of people have lost faith in baseball. What would you say to those people to help them get back into watching the game?

Well, you know, to their credit, it’s sort of tough because the guys move around so much now. You get attached to one of the players, then he goes to another team. It’s sort of tough because I think the way they used to do baseball back in the day, they had that little bitty lead that they used to do, they could stay with a player, but they can’t do that now.

Try to grasp a player that you think is going to be a good player and a good person. Not just make him your idol, but a guy you want to look up to, so it can be family oriented, like I’ve always understood in Indy. Family oriented where you can get your family and bring them to the ballclub.

I would want my son – I’m a pitcher – I want him to pick me a pitcher off the staff that he liked the way he handled himself on and off the field. That’s the way I think a fan base can get like that.

Now the guys, like I said, move so much it’s so quick and so tough. It’s tougher for the fan now than back in my day.

So, do you think the future of baseball means following a player rather than a team?

[Being a fan of a player is better] because with them if they get traded somewhere, with the internet you can follow those guys. And then if he’s good enough, the team won’t be getting rid of him to another organization, so you can watch him play AA and AAA and maybe follow him to the big leagues.

I think a lot of good things are happening in Major League Baseball [and they are] trying to do more things, but I think they are doing it more worldwide. They are trying to do a worldwide draft. I think they need to take care of the fanbase we have here. Because the Internet had so much to do with it now.

I coach international baseball, and it’s amazing that you see the guys in South Africa that I coach know so much about baseball because of the internet. But, I think we need to get more kids in our community to play the game and get them off the computer inside, because our country is not very healthy, and that’s the one thing: you’re always outdoors. In basketball, you go inside and sit on a bench, the guys are eating popcorn and everything. In baseball, you get to go outside and run around a little bit. Most places have a little playground so kids can get exercise. Nothing better than fresh air.

When you weren’t playing and when you aren’t coaching, what’s your favorite part of being at a baseball park?

Well, I still think I can play basketball.

But – I like to get back and see my old buddies.

But the main thing and my best friends in all of baseball was the groundcrews and the office personnel. They get run pretty ragged and they get no credit for it. You go to a game and the fans don’t show up til five o’clock, but the personnel and the ground crew, they have to be there at eight in the morning. I think baseball should do a little bit more for people to understand the game. I think they should do something to give those guys more credit- give them some tv time. That’s where the game of baseball starts. So every time I get a chance, I always go to see my grounds crew. In all the parks I’ve played, and some of the parks I haven’t played. Because they move around a lot, I don’t think there’s too many cities I’ve been to where I don’t know the grounds crew or one of their buddies, I always hang out with them.

 

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Guest Blog post by Indians Fan Blogger, Megan Brown.

Megan Brown is excited to further fuel her baseball addiction by fanblogging for the Indianapolis Indians this season. When not at a ballpark or blogging about sports, Megan takes on freelance social media ventures and works as a social media networker. Keep up with her all season long on the Indianapolis Indians blog, follow her on Twitter (@thatgirlmegan), and keep an eye out for her soon-to-be-unveiled sports site www.thatgirlondeck.com!

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