BATTLE GROUND — Baseball America, which prides itself on covering America’s pastime at just about every level, has named a Battle Ground senior as one of the best high school players in the country.
Isaiah Smith comes in at No. 75 on the publication’s Top 100 high school prospects for the 2017 Major League Baseball draft in June.
For Isaiah Smith, the number is just a number.
“It encourages me, I suppose. But it’s good to be humble and not let that get to your head,” Smith said. “A lot of people might try to flaunt it. I’m not.”
Still, being No. 75 on such a prestigious list is something to celebrate for the Battle Ground Tigers.
“It’s an honor for me to have him part of this program,” Battle Ground coach Billy Hayes said. “It’s great for the community. It brings attention to everybody. I’m really appreciative of that.
“It’s a reward for all the work he puts in. He’s always doing something to get better.”
That approach is what got Smith to this position. That, and his speed, size, and arm strength. Listed at 6-2, 192 pounds, the center fielder can jog around the bases after hitting a home run or stretch a double into a triple with his speed.
But first, it is the mindset that all tools are meaningless without a work ethic.
“It’s truly a blessing,” he said of seeing his name on the list. “It felt great … but it doesn’t define me. I’m just going to keep doing my thing and get better and try not to get wrapped up in numbers.”
Smith excelled at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., last summer, an event featuring many of the top seniors-to-be in the nation.
“I knew it was a huge deal, but when I got there, ‘Whoa, this is a Huge deal,'” he said. “I’m playing with the best. I’m competing with the best right now. Just a great, great experience. Nothing I’ve played in compares to that.”
Besides his trip to Long Beach, he also was a fixture at the ball park — any ball park his team was playing at on a particular day. There are no days off for a player of his quality.
“My summer was just baseball, more baseball, and baseball, I guess,” he said.
For the most part, he had the schedule similar to that of a professional player. Games six days a week. Few true practice sessions.
“There is no practice like an actual game,” he said.
Still, the key to success, he said, is that when it is time to practice, or work on a few drills before games, one must treat every session the same.
“When you practice, you need to practice as if you’re in a game situation, going 100 percent every rep,” Smith said.
Hayes said Smith is like an extra coach for the program, always helping the younger players.
“In conditioning, he’s out there every time. In October, November, December, January. Every time. And he leads the way,” Hayes said.
Plus, that humility is not a ruse, Hayes said. Smith is a genuine. With or without the game.
“Takes the baseball away, and he’s still just an amazing kid,” Hayes said.
All of that is a build-up to a special time. Smith, who has signed with Washington State, expects to be selected in the MLB Draft June 12-14. He said he will weigh his options then, deciding on whether to turn professional or play for the Cougars.
“It’s a dream,” Smith said. “As a baseball player growing up, it’s always been a dream. It’s almost here. It’s a possibility. It’s not overwhelming, but it is exciting.”
Still, that’s June. That’s a season away from him and the Tigers.
Smith and his teammates are more focused on the now.
Battle Ground expects to compete for a Class 4A Greater St. Helens League title this spring, perhaps go on a run and earn a trophy at the state tournament for the first time in program history.
To Smith, that is more important than any list.