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When John Smith traveled with his Gatorball fall baseball team last September to take on Daytona State College, he made quite a first impression.
Exactly five months to the day later, Smith, a Citrus High School senior, signed his National Letter of Intent on Feb. 10 at Citrus High School to play collegiate baseball for the Falcons in Daytona Beach.
Daytona State baseball coach Tim Touma remembered his first encounter with Smith on that fateful fall day.
“He had played his fall ball against us and there were a few players that stood out, but John in particular,” Touma said. “I shook his hand at the end of the game and asked him how his academics were. And he said, ‘I’m a 4.0 (grade-point average), coach.’”
Smith was impressed with the Falcons program for a myriad of reasons. The outfielder said Daytona State appeared to be stable, placed a strong emphasis on academics and would be the best place to prepare him for his
“I felt like it was going to be the best place for me to go,” Smith said, “and get me to where I want to go.”
Smith chose the Falcons over Lake-Sumter Community College and Christian Brothers University, a Division-II program in Memphis, Tenn. In making the choice, Smith wanted to stay in Florida to use his Bright Futures scholarship. He also said Daytona offered him the best package.
Daytona State went 22-18 overall in 2011, with an 11-12 record in the Mid-Florida Conference, good for fourth place.
According to Touma, Smith is an ideal fit for what the Falcons hope to accomplish.
“He’s strong and we’re looking for a left-handed bat,” Touma said. “It really comes down to the person for us. He had a great family.
“When we watched John on the field,” Touma continued, “he looked like a college player to us already.”
Citrus head baseball coach Brady Bogart echoed Touma’s sentiments, saying Smith has great potential to improve, especially on the base paths.
“He should be a threat on the bases,” Bogart said. “He stole 26 bases last year (as a Citrus junior) ... and he can steal more.”
Smith is the third player in recent weeks from Citrus County to sign with a college team after playing Gatorball. The other two are Citrus teammate Ryan Labrador and Crystal River’s Tyler Humphreys.
Gatorball coach Stephen Barton thought the three shared a common thread.
“All these guys from Citrus ... they definitely put themselves out there as far as comparing themselves to the rest of the state,” Barton said. “These guys showed they can play with anyone out there.”
Smith thanked his parents, grandparents, youth coach Jim Tobin, Bogart and Gatorball coach Stephen Barton.
“It’s junior-college ball in Florida,” Smith said, “and my family gets to see me play.”
As far as how quickly Smith can expect to see the field in Daytona, Touma said it was entirely up to the player.
“When we’re serious enough to spend the time and energy and give a scholarship,” Touma said, “we hope the guys we’ve singled out to give money to come in and play.
“He has an opportunity to go out right away and win the job.”