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Making a dream come true

Tigard High graduate Spencer Smith stays strong and earns his chance to play with the Ducks


Photo Credit: CHRISTIAN J. STEWART/INDEPENDENT SPORTS NEWS - NO STOPPING HIM -- Tigard grad Spencer Smith had a big summer for the Medford Rogues, hitting for a .288 average with a team-high total of 36 runs scored. EUGENE — All along, Spencer Smith wanted to play baseball for the University of Oregon.

Well, the former Tigard High School star is soon going to get his wish.

But, making that dream come true sure wasn’t easy.

The path to becoming an Oregon Duck wasn’t a straight one. There was even a bit of a detour.

But, for Smith, it was all worth it.

“I kind of knew all along that the University of Oregon is where I wanted to end up at,” Smith said last week by phone from Eugene. “That’s where I always wanted to play. But, I’ll tell you, I wasn’t ready coming out of high school.”

Smith, a 2011 Tigard High School graduate, was a three-sport star during his days playing for the Tigers, and he certainly seemed to have plenty of shining moments on the baseball diamond at Tigard.

The good times continued that year, as following his senior year at Tigard, Smith helped the Portland Baseball Club team earn a spot in the championship game of the ages 18U Babe Ruth World Series.

After that, Smith started his collegiate baseball career, playing at Lane Community College in Eugene.

To no real surprise, Smith shined as a freshman outfielder at Lane.

“That first year was a lot of fun,” Smith said. “Our recruiting class was pretty good. We had a great group of guys. We worked hard and got after it. It was a good year for baseball.”

As a freshman at Lane, Smith hit for a .291 batting average with 43 hits in 148 at-bats. He hit a team-best four triples while also having 11 doubles and scoring 32 runs to rank second on the squad in each of those categories.

Smith also was chosen to the NWAACC Southern Region all-star team for his play during the 2012 season.

“That all was a lot of fun,” Smith said of his freshman season at Lane. “I thought I made some good strides that first year.”

That certainly seemed to set up a big 2013 season for Smith.

Nope. That’s where the detour came in.

Smith decided to redshirt his sophomore year. That meant that he wouldn’t play baseball during his second year at the school, and he wouldn’t lose a year of eligibility.

“It wasn’t necessarily an academic issue,” Smith said of his decision to redshirt during the 2013 season. “I just didn’t have enough credits. I met with the coaches, and we decided that it would be best if I sat out the year.”

Photo Credit: CHRISTIAN J. STEWART/INDEPENDENT SPORTS NEWS - WELCOME HOME -- Tigard High School graduate Spencer Smith (left) is greeted by some of his Medford Rogue teammates after scroing a run for the team during West Coast League play this summer. Smith was selected to play in the league's all-star game. While he didn’t play for the Titans during the 2013 season, he was still part of the team, going to practices and games. But it wasn’t easy.

“No, it was real tough, knowing that I wouldn’t be playing with the recruits I came in with,” Smith said.

But, in the long run, that year off may have turned out to be a good thing — a very good thing.

“I think it was a blessing in disguise,” Smith said. “I got to work on some things. I got bigger, faster and stronger.”

He also was able to catch up on his college credits.

“I did well with my classes,” Smith said.

And he also got to take in the game of baseball from a whole new point of view.

“I had a different perspective,” Smith said. “I ended up appreciating the game a lot more. It made me realize how much I love the game. I didn’t want it to be taken away from me again.”

In the summer of 2013, following his redshirt year at Lane Community College, Smith played for the Medford Rogues of the West Coast League, which is a collegiate-level wood-bat league.

That summer, Smith hit for a .320 average in 41 games with the Rogues. He also had three doubles, a pair of triples and eight stolen bases.

“I got back to playing day-to-day baseball,” Smith said. “I think that summer put me on the map.”

He also caught the eyes of the University of Oregon baseball program with his performance that summer.

“I got some interest from them,” Smith said. “They came out in the fall and watched me a few times.”

This past spring, Smith was back in action at Lane Community College, as a redshirt sophomore for the Titans.

“That was a real fun year,” Smith said. “It was a good year for me.”

Smith played with a familiar face this past spring, as Tigard High graduate Tucker Campbell played at shortstop at Lane.

“That was great,” Smith said. “We’ve been buddies since the JV years at Tigard. We had a real good group of guys. We bonded well.”

Smith may have been a big part of that, as he emerged as a leader for the Titans this past spring.

Photo Credit: CHRISTIAN J. STEWART/INDEPENDENT SPORTS NEWS - SMITH SMASH -- Spencer Smith, a 2011 Tigard High School graduate, takes a swing while playing for the Medford Rogues this summer. Smith, who played at Lane Community College this past spring, has signed to play at the University of Oregon. “That’s one of the first times I’ve had that role,” he said. “I loved it. I think it was really good for me. I think all of the third-year guys we had on the team were good leaders. It was really fun for us.”

In his redshirt sophomore season at Lane, Smith hit for a .276 average with 48 hits in 176 at-bats. He led the squad with 13 stolen bases while also ranking among team leaders in runs scored (31) and RBIs (25) while helping the Titans go 30-18 on the year.

“It was a hell of a year,” Smith said. “It was nothing but positive.”

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Smith returned to the Rogues this past summer. He hit for a .288 for the Medford team with a team-high 36 runs scored.

He also was selected to play in the West Coast League All-Star Game in Klamath Falls. While the all-star game itself was rained out, Smith got to reunite with Corey VanDomelen at the event.

VanDomelen, a Tualatin High School graduate, was a former rival of Smith’s before they got to play together on the Portland Baseball Club team.

“He’s a good buddy,” Smith said of VanDomelen, who played with the Cowlitz Black Bears of the WCL this past summer. “It’s too bad the game got rained out, but it was fun watching Corey in the home run derby. It’s been fun keeping this friendship going.”

Also this past summer, Smith set a new West Coast League record by getting hit by a pitch 18 times. He also was hit by a pitch 16 times during his 2014 season at Lane Community College.

“I don’t know why that happened,” Smith said with a laugh. “I don’t know if I was in on the plate or what. Maybe it was just the year of the beanball.”

In between his big spring season at Lane and his all-star summer season in Medford, Smith officially signed to continue his collegiate baseball career at the University of Oregon.

“Yeah, that was really exciting,” Smith said. “I’m blessed to be going there. I’m definitely excited, and I’m ready to step on the field. I love the coaching staff and the facilities. I got a chance to meet some of the guys, and they’re great.

“The sky’s the limit.”

Smith will begin practicing with the Ducks on Sept. 8.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “It’s going to be intense, fun and competitive.”

And it sounds like Smith, with his appreciation for the sport, is going to savor every single second.

“I’m going to keep working toward my degree,” he said. “And where ever baseball takes me, I’ll go. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”

It sounds like Smith is ready to stay on his path to success.

*****

Photos by Christian J. Stewart, http://christianjstewart.zenfolio.com/harbourcats

http://www.independentsportsnews.com/victoria-harbourcats

twitter: @cjs_photography



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