Perrysburg's Smith signs with Michigan State baseball (06-06-12)
Written by CHAYSE HELD Sentinel Sports Writer
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 09:28
PERRYSBURG - Hunter Smith's decision to focus on baseball has paid off in a good way.
|Perrysburg's Hunter Smith makes it safely to third earlier this season. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The recent graduate of Perrysburg High School parlayed an outstanding senior season on the diamond into a Division I scholarship, and now he will have the opportunity to showcase his talents in the Big Ten Conference.
Smith signed his national letter of intent to play baseball at Michigan State University last month, officially signing with the Spartans when he made a visit to the East Lansing campus on May 8.
Smith received a partial athletic scholarship to play for MSU and head coach Jake Boss.
"Going into my senior season I just wanted to play at a Division I school. I never knew it was going to be Big Ten," Smith said in a phone interview Monday.
Early in his high school career Smith lettered in football and was a state qualifier in golf at Perrysburg, but chose to focus solely on baseball his senior season.
A left-handed batter and right-handed thrower, the 6-foot-4 outfielder batted .344 and stole 13 bases, and led the Yellow Jackets in home runs (7), runs batted in (25), and runs scored (38). He was named first-team All-Ohio and All-Northern Lakes League.
Possessing an unique blend of power and speed, as well as being a left-handed hitter, Smith's stock rose considerably during his tremendous senior season.
"I think he's very intriguing ... He's got Major League speed. He's got great power. I think he's got some untapped potential," said Perrysburg head coach Dave Hall.
Smith had originally verbally committed to Miami (Ohio), but the RedHawks hadn't offered Smith a scholarship. Then, in the middle of his senior season, traditional baseball power Pepperdine of the West Coast Conference showed interest and made an offer to Smith.
After Pepperdine showed interest, including its head coach flying in from California to watch a game, Smith's name quickly made the rounds as a possible overlooked prospect.
Smith also received offers from Miami and Cincinnati before he made his final decision of attending Michigan State.
"I'm glad I waited. I'm glad I was patient and it ended up working perfectly for me," Smith said. "Michigan State, their offer to me was straight up. They didn't wait a day. They didn't play around, which is what a lot of the other coaches did.
"I looked at the coaching staff and saw how honest they were and saw how they handled issues, and I decided I wanted to play for these guys."
After deciding to not play football his senior season, Smith focused on the weight room and working with his personal hitting instructor, Leon "Bull" Durham, who is currently the hitting coach for the Toledo Mud Hens.
Smith verbally committed to Miami in February, but began getting attention from other schools once he started to produce big power numbers this season. He also attended camps throughout the fall and winter where he gained exposure.
"I started hitting a lot of home runs and hitting the ball a lot harder than I used to," Smith said. "It's just a crazy feat to go Big Ten ... It's one of my dreams that I've always had to play at that level of baseball.
"I took the next step during my senior year," Smith added. "I wasn't satisfied with Miami (Ohio)."
As for his late decision and the whirlwind of offers he received with high school graduation just weeks away, Smith said he wouldn't have had it any other way.
"It's everything a kid dreams for. The recruiting process, some kids sign early and they don't have that much pressure. But I love the pressure. I love knowing that you've got to go out and play well every day," Smith said. "Knowing that there's going to be new people out watching you every day. I love knowing that you've got to compete still and there's never a day off.
"I had more motive actually. It just helped me to play my game knowing that there were people watching me," Smith added. "I think that made my senior season a great season. It was one of those things that you've got to embrace it and enjoy it, because not too many people get to go through it."
Smith, an honor roll student at Perrysburg, said he plans on studying athletic training at MSU.