Smith’s career moves up a notch

Posted Aug. 25, 2008, at 9:41 p.m.

His ultimate destination is the Gateway City, but he won’t be able to use Mapquest or a Magellan global positioning satellite system to get there.

That’s because Curt Smith’s journey must take him from Davenport, Iowa, to Palm Beach, Fla., through Spring-field, Mo., to Memphis, Tenn., before he can get to St. Louis.

Regardless of the circuitous route the former University of Maine star takes, the trip may not last too long if his first sea-son of minor league baseball is any indication.

The 6-foot, 205-pound Smith batted a robust .378 for the Rookie League Johnson City (Tenn.) Cardinals with eight home runs, 49 RBIs and 34 runs scored in 47 games before being promoted to the Swing of the Quad Cities, the Cardinals’ Low Single-A affiliate in Davenport.

In his first four games with the Swing, Smith batted .125 with one RBI and two runs scored.

“The new league is definitely different. The game’s faster and the players are better. I love it,” Smith said.

“The hardest part of the pro game is definitely the pitching,” said the former third baseman, who has been switched to first base. “That’s the biggest thing. Defensively, it was a bigger adjustment going to shortstop than it has been going to first base.”

The travel certainly doesn’t bother Smith. He’d already done more of that than most people his age, going from his native Willemstad, Curacao, to visit — and then live in — Bangor as a teen.

Smith accompanied his Latin American Region champion-ship team to the Senior League World Series in Bangor and helped the team win the Series title in 2002. The experience got him increased visibility and led to both a contract offer from the Minnesota Twins and a Division I scholarship offer from the Black Bears.

He chose UMaine and parlayed that decision into a standout four-year collegiate career, selection as the 2008 America East Player of the Year and a 39th-round draft selection (No. 1,175 overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Although he was disappointed to be chosen so late in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, he hasn’t let it affect his performance. In fact, he seems to use it as motivation.

“I didn’t get picked until the second day,” the 21-year-old Smith explained. “I was really surprised I went so late, but it’s no big deal. As long as you get drafted, that’s the main thing is to get a chance. We all start in the same spot.”

Smith’s current season will end Sept. 2. Shortly after the last out, he’ll be heading back to start his final semester of classes at UMaine, where he is just 12 credits short of his degree in business marketing.

“A lot of players never go back and get it and I’m still on scholarship, so I really want to finish up my degree,” he said.

Smith is looking forward to returning to Maine, despite the coming onset of cold weather.

“Maine was a great place for me. It worked out perfectly,” he said. “I might not have gotten recruited if I didn’t go there.”

Smith, who will return to Willemstad during December’s Christmas break, lived with a host family while he played for Johnson City, but he is now living in a hotel until he finds an apartment.

“It’s not much different from college. We room alone and sometimes with one or two roommates on the road,” the son of Claudette Mourillon and Claudius Smith said. “That’s why [college] definitely helped me. I grew up a little more and I was more mature to handle being on my own.”

Although he hasn’t been told to work on anything specific, Smith, who now keeps a note-book on opposing pitchers, said he wants to constantly improve his fundamental skills and be-come more adept at hitting changeups.

“I’m still trying to adjust even more to the pitchers and I’m definitely still working on hitting changeups,” he said. “This game never gets old. There’s always room for improvement.”

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