Shining star: Former Rebel Smith looks to turn around Padres

Former Ole Miss star Seth Smith leads the San Diego Padres in every significant offensive category. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Former Ole Miss star Seth Smith leads the San Diego Padres in every significant offensive category. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

By Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

ATLANTA – Seth Smith is a rare bright spot for the major league baseball team in sunny San Diego.

The former Ole Miss Rebel was a hot trading commodity until he signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month with the Padres. Smith could have moved to a playoff contender looking for another bat, but is now seemingly steady where he is.

“It’s good. I like San Diego and the Padres. Excited about this season and the next couple of seasons,” Smith said before Sunday’s game against the Braves. “San Diego is a great place to live and a great place to play.”

Smith leads the Padres – the worst offensive team in Major League Baseball – all across the board, hitting .295/.392/.510/.902.

The 31-year-old spent the first five years of his career with the Rockies, then two seasons in Oakland before an offseason trade sent him to the Padres. The extension likely ends the trade rumors. It would have been his first free agency.

“Anything that’s out of your control, you learn to not worry about it,” Smith said, “not put any time thinking about it. Whatever is out of your control, you treat it as such.”

Part of Seth Smith trivia is the fact he was a backup quarterback for three years to Eli Manning. The tidbit flashed across the Turner Field jumbotron before an at-bat Saturday night.

Sticking with baseball

How close was the high school star to chasing a football career?

“Not real close,” Smith said. “I enjoyed playing in college and high school. Football is still one of my favorite sports, but baseball is definitely the path for me.”

He never took a snap away from Eli, but now plays in the town Eli was drafted in before forcing the infamous trade to New York.

After Eli left, Smith could have had two seasons as the Rebels’ starting quarterback. But he followed Eli out when Colorado took him at No. 50 in 2004, his third year at Ole Miss. But he was a part of two regionals at Ole Miss from 2002-04, leaving a year before Ole Miss’ infamous runs of failed Super Regionals. Smith exchanged texts with Rebels coach Mike Bianco as Ole Miss went to June’s College World Series for the first time since 1972.

“I was proud of them to take that next step,” he said. “They’ve been so close here recently. And it’s one thing to get there, but to get there and kind of be in the thick of things was fun to watch.”

Smith will be a key to San Diego getting over the postseason hump. The Padres were 46-59 heading into Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals, 121⁄2 games behind the Dodgers. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006.

But Smith is having his best statistical season and chose to continue it with a club he believes can get where the teams interested in him are already going.

“If you come and work hard and you have faith in your teammates and you run out there and everybody is on the same page,” Smith said, “then you’ve got a chance.”

brandon.speck@journalinc.com