Michael Smith arrived at Mississippi State determined to make an immediate impact.
The transfer from Walters State (Tenn.) Community College battled his way through fall ball and the preseason to earn the starting job in right field for the season opener against Cincinnati.
“It was unbelievable,” Smith said. “It blew my mind. Just being out there and looking around at my surroundings, it was crazy. I was more excited more than nervous.”
Smith wasted little time proving he belonged with an RBI double in his first at bat and later came around to score.
However the excitement would be short-lived.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder had pulled a hip flexor on the base paths which would cost him the next 11 games.
“It was pretty disappointing to get hurt the first game of the season but everything happens for a reason,” Smith said. “I’m finally feeling healthy, which is good. I’m glad to be back.”
Smith has only started five games since the opener and just three in conference play. He has appeared in 22 games total going 4-for-20 at the plate with a pair of runs batted in.
The injury also limited one of his biggest assets, his speed. Smith swiped 41 bases during his junior college career including 29 last year. He has yet to attempt a steal this season.
Smith was a second team All-TCCAA selection as a sophomore batting .331 with nine doubles, three triples, four home runs and 36 RBI.
He has discovered the competition level a little more challenging in the Southeastern Conference.
“Everybody here is good at each position,” Smith said. “In JUCO, you’d have one or two guys and maybe a pitcher or two. Here every pitcher you see is going to be good.”
A native of Franklin, Tenn., Smith’s goal was to get to the SEC. Although he was the Division II Player of the Year and a first team All-State selection at Battle Ground Academy, Smith’s only option out of high school was Walters State.
After two solid seasons with the Senators which included a gold glove and a perfect fielding percentage, Smith finally had the SEC offers he wanted from MSU and home state school Vanderbilt.
“I decided on Mississippi State when I came on my visit,” Smith said. “Coach Ming (Nick Mingione) did a great job recruiting me. I thought Starkville was amazing when I came here and also the fan base.”