Everything Eric Smith heard about life in minor league baseball couldn't have been truer.
It really is a grind.
That's the first thing the 2009 La Cañada High graduate learned about his new job as a member of the Ogden Raptors, a rookie affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Smith forwent his senior season with the Stanford University baseball team to sign a contract with the Dodgers organization after he was drafted by his hometown team in the 18th round at No. 566 overall June 6 in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.
"It is definitely different from college; it's definitely a huge adjustment," said Smith, a catcher who's also logged time at designated hitter with the Raptors. "Everything I have heard about it, how it's a grind, is 100% true. …We started mid-June and we went 22 games without an off-day. We are driving to hotels in the middle of the night and getting there at 5 in the morning."
The key to surviving the grind has been establishing a routine "to stay fresh," Smith said.
"Most of our games are at 7 [p.m.] and you're going to bed at 1 in the morning, but you're sleeping all day just trying to get as much rest as you can between games," Smith said. "You just try to get a routine, eat at the same time and go to the stadium at the same time. Every day is pretty much the same. You just have to do what your body tells you. You have to figure [the routine] out on your own."
Smith's routine has kept him in tip-top shape on the field about a month and a half into the season, as he leads Ogden in batting average with a .349 mark (58 for 166) which is also good for seventh best in the Pioneer League 48 games into a season he's made 42 appearances in so far.
"I don't think you can ask for a better start than what I have had here in Ogden," said Smith, who also leads the Raptors in doubles (12), triples (six) and is tied for the team lead in total bases (85).
Smith credits his three years at Stanford for preparing him for the experience as best as possible.
"We had one of the toughest schedules in the country and thePAC-12is one of the best conferences in the country, so I think that definitely helped," said Smith, who's also posted 35 runs batted in and a .437 on-base and .512 slugging percentages, which are all second bests for Ogden. "I am just trying to stay as consistent with my swing as possible and not let one game get me down. You have to take each at-bat as it comes and don't take it with you, whether it's good or bad, because you have another one coming up."
All the success at the plate has led Ogden Manager Damon Berryhill to put Smith at the No. 2 spot in the Ogden batting order as of late.
"I really take that as a compliment," Smith said. "It's a tough spot to be in because there's a lot of responsibility and there's so many different things you can do, but that's why I like it, too."
The Raptors, who are 25-23 overall, have enjoyed a strong start to their 2012 season along with Smith after they won the first half of the Pioneer League's South Division with a 21-17 record for a guaranteed playoff spot and home-field advantage in the postseason.
It showed Smith just how lucky he is to be a part of the Dodgers organization, which his family has a part of as Dodgers season ticket holders since Smith was a youngster.
"That's an advantage to playing in the Dodgers organization, they are here to win," Smith said. "It's an honor to be playing for an organization that is dedicated to winning at really every level."
Each day is a two-fold project for Smith, who said he's obviously there looking to advance his professional career and also helping Ogden win. And while it becomes a day-to-day grind, Smith wouldn't trade it away.
"It is everything I thought it would be and it couldn't be better," Smith said. "Every day is a learning experience, which is awesome. It is truly on the job training and it's unbelievable."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times