Baseball standout faces stiff competition at Tournament of Stars
Stephen Smith normally faces 85 mph fastballs and eats them up on the South Plains.
So there was only one word he could describe when dealing with 95 mph heaters at the Tournament of Stars: crazy.
“I saw a guy throwing 96 mph,” said Smith, who was the first Frenship player to participate in the annual tournament. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
The Tournament of Stars is a quick, eight-team league of high school players that occurs one weekend each summer to determine the U18 national team.
Smith, who was the pitching ace on the 2012 Tigers and also played the field, didn’t make the national team, but his time in Cary, N.C., two weeks ago proved a valuable learning experience.
“It made me realize all of the talent outside of Lubbock, Texas, and it made me realize how much I have to get better as a baseball player,” said Smith, who was the District 3-4A player of the year.
There were 144 players at the tournament, divided into eight teams. Smith only played in two of his team’s four games, failing to reach base in either contest.
“It’s unreal to see all this talent,” said the Texas Tech commitment. “These guys are like first-round, second-round draft picks. There are lefties throwing 95 mph.”
Also at the tournament was Coronado’s Tyler Thorne and former Little League teammate Garrett Williams.
Williams, who now lives in Shreveport, La., made the national team.
A scout, recruiter or coach must nominate a player for consideration for the team. Smith said he was recommended by a scout who had seen him play.
Smith had a 2-1 record this year for the Tigers, posting a 1.83 era in the regular season.
Frenship coach Chad Reynolds said Smith is ultra competitive, and can do it all on the diamond.
“He’s what scouts call a five-tool guy,” Reynolds said. “He’s a big guy that can really run and is really strong. The most important part about Stephen is he is highly competitive. He loves to compete. He plays the game hard — that’s the best thing about him.”
Smith said he plans to ratchet up his batting practice to get used to faster speeds, especially as he prepares for the next level. Reynolds said increased repetition will help Smith in dealing with the mid-90s fastball.
Even though the incoming senior was disappointed he didn’t make the team, he relished the chance to play with some of the best players in the nation.
“It’s just an honor to be chosen as one of the 144 best players in the nation,” he said.
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