Two days into what could have been one of the crowning achievements in his baseball career, Catholic High’s Josh Smith had to deal with a disappointing outcome.
Smith traveled to Cary, North Carolina, to represent his country for the first time doing what he loves the most. The Bears shortstop was set to compete against the nation’s best 17-and-under players for a spot on Team USA until an injury during batting practice derailed those hopes.
Three medical opinions later, the unforgettable sensation that shot through Smith’s body was diagnosed as a pulled muscle in his rib cage. The LSU commitment returned home long enough to recover and returned to the grind of a summer baseball circuit.
“He just loves the process of getting better,” Catholic coach Brad Bass said. “That’s what is going to separate him in the long run. That relentless work ethic is something you don’t see in a lot of kids. A lot of people like baseball, and talk about how much they love it, but Josh lives that.”
Smith admits his love for the game, and the conclusion of this week’s Perfect Game Super 25 World Series in Ft. Myers, Florida, will conclude his travel-ball season with Marucci Johnson and the start of a family vacation.
Just don’t bet on Smith preferring a white, sandy beach over a baseball field.
“I could play baseball every single day,” he said. “It’s awesome. I could go without taking a break.”
Smith’s career has seen a steady ascension, highlighted by his junior season in which he was named first team All-District 5-5A, Class 5A All-State and All-Metro.
“It’s an honor to receive those awards,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the guys playing behind me and picking me up when I struggled.”
The national U17 tryout was another high-water mark until the injury.
“It was cool to get to go there,” he said. “I wanted to try and make it and do the best that I could.”
Catholic positioned itself for a run at a second Class 5A state championship in three years, in large part because of the role Smith played both at the plate and at shortstop.
Smith batted .448 with three homers, 14 doubles and 38 RBIs. He maintained a .708 slugging percentage and .633 on-base percentage to go along with a .961 fielding percentage.
“The thing that’s most impressive is how he does it on a consistent basis,” Bass said. “When you’re judging baseball players, consistency and a high level of play is what you look for in really great players.”
Once Catholic’s magical run — including a school-record 37 victories — ended with a loss to Barbe in the state championship game, Smith took a short break before transitioning into summer ball.
Smith’s summer began in Atlanta before going to the Team USA tryout. Following his injury, Smith went to Ft. Myers where he’s returned to form, highlighted by a pair of triples in an 11-0 victory Tuesday over the Orlando Assault.
He’s already looking ahead to his senior year at Catholic.
“We had one of the better years in Catholic High history, but it could have been better,” Smith said. “The guys I played with were awesome and wouldn’t trade it for the world. Now I’m going to these tournaments and we’re seeing some of the best pitching from around the country. It helps me to mentally prepare for what I’ll face in 5A next year.”