Catching up with Padres’ Top Pick Austin Smith

I was lucky enough to interview the San Diego Padres first-round selection of the 2015 draft. The Padres used that selection on a high school talent out of the state of Florida named Austin Smith. He attended Park Vista High School and was 8-2 with a 1.33 ERA his senior year, guiding the team all the way to the state semi-finals. In 82 high school innings, Smith struck out 98 batters and walked 23, while only allowing 54 hits.

The young right-hander has tremendous upside and is still developing his repertoire on the mound. He throws in the mid 90’s with an easy motion and has a curveball and change-up as well. Smith has the distinction of being the first ever draft selection for new Padres general manager A.J. Preller. The team has very high hopes for him.

Austin Smith recently sat down for a brief question and answer with EastVillageTimes. My first impression of this young man is that he is extremely bright and very respectful. He was more than willing to talk with me, and joked if this would get him more Twitter followers. So Padres fans, go follow the man right now. He is waiting.

The following interview took place Monday, December 21. We are very thankful to Austin Smith for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk. He looks to have a very successful first full year as a professional baseball player.

Was it a tough decision going pro opposed to going to school?  

No, not really. I knew I was ready to become a professional and start at that level. My first professional season, I had to learn a lot. It was a challenge. But I was ready for that challenge, and it was something that I wanted to do.

You were a Marlins fan growing up, were there any particular players you looked up to in the game of baseball?

Growing up I was a utility player, so I looked up to Hanley Ramirez, Dontrelle Willis, A.J. Burnett, and Josh Beckett. I also really liked Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez as well.

Any coach or former ball player that has influenced you so far in your first professional career? 

All of the rookie ball coaches helped a lot but Mark Prior helped me focus on the mental side of things. Learning how to pitch in certain situations. I really learned a lot.

Have you had a chance to work with Darren Balsley yet?

No, I have not.

Any particular players you have developed friendships with so far in the Padres minor league system?

Jacob Nix, Josh Magee, Tyler Moore, Jordan Guerrero were all great teammates and friends.

What has been your biggest thrill so far? What gets you up in the morning?

Just getting better everyday. Waking up at six in the morning to go on a beach run. Knowing that not too many people are doing that. Working out that early, then going to the gym right after, is pretty exciting. Knowing that I am getting in shape for spring training. Hopefully to have a good spring and start off in Low A-ball.

What do you enjoy about the game? What influences have gotten you to where you are today?

It’s always been my dream (to play professional baseball). I eat, sleep, and breathe baseball. My family loves baseball so I have been around the game a lot. I have a great family that supports me. My family has gotten me to where I am today.

Do you enjoy hitting and swinging the bat?

I love hitting. I feel like if I wasn’t a pitcher, and worked a little bit, I could probably hit in the pros.

Do you ever get nervous out on the mound?

Not really. I like to go out there and have fun. Jut play my game and not try to do anything more than being myself.

After only throwing two innings per appearance your first season as a professional, are you looking forward to being stretched out a bit in terms of innings per appearance?

It was what I needed for my arm. The Padres did a great job on watching my pitch count and making sure I stayed healthy. I didn’t throw too many innings. I’d come out sometimes right when I felt I was just getting warmed up. I’m excited for the spring.

Any advice for the kids?

Chase your dreams and keep working hard. Even when you don’t want to get up and work hard, just do it man because those are the days you are going to get better. Always have confidence in yourself and stay as positive as possible. Just keep working hard that’s the most important.

Do you have any special messages for the Padres fans out there?

Hopefully I am part of the Padres plans in a couple of years. The fans have already been great to me. I appreciate all the support and hopefully they will be watching me on T.V. or in person very soon.


 

A version of this article first appeared on EastVillageTimes.com, your home for quality Padres News.

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