Bobby Smith, you say? Oh, he just made the Topps All-Star Rookie squad because he got the "Expansion Team Boost" you say. Oh, he was the only 3B who qualified, you say. Well guess what? Not only did he outplay Aramis Ramírez and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltré, but he was top 5 among all rookies in homers and RBI. No need to make excuses for success! Bobby Smith was the best choice for Topps All-Star Rookie 3B in 1998, and I'm here to tell you all about it.
The Devil Rays picked Smith in the expansion draft from the Braves, which worked out great for Smith. He certainly would be waiting a long time for a chance to play behind Chipper Jones and the deep farm system that Atlanta boasted. In Tampa, he'd have a fair chance to be seen along with a host of other promising youngsters. His rookie season included the Devil Rays first walk off homer, which was a stunning end to a 14 inning marathon. Smith's homer was his 4th hit of the game, his first big league home run, and you can watch it right here:
Not too shabby.
Smith was an 11th round pick by Atlanta, following a great prep career in Oakland. He was the Oakland school district's Player of the Year in 1992, and had a scholarship offer from Cal-Berkeley. He opted to play professionally with the Braves, making his way up the organizational ladder. He displayed a little power, a little speed, and lot of versatility. In the minors, he was already moving around the diamond - he played in the outfield as well as shortstop, but his primary position was the hot corner.
The Devil Rays had picked up Wade Boggs as a free agent before their first MLB game, and Bobby Smith was looked at as his heir apparent. Smith's rookie year was his most productive. Over the next few years, a pattern would emerge - Smith would hit well in AAA, then struggle in the big leagues. Whether it can be chalked up to a poor hitting environment in Tropicana Field, limited at bats to develop a groove, or just hitting his talent ceiling, Smith was unable to put it all together at the big league level.
Smith still found jobs throughout organized pro ball, though his final MLB game came in 2002. He played another 5 seasons in the high minors for the Brewers, Yankees, White Sox and his hometown Oakland A's. After he retired from playing, Smith went on to a career in coaching, serving as a hitting couch in Arizona's minor league system under Delino DeShields, Sr.
Do you have any Bobby Smith memories? I'd love to read them in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!