06/07/2004 8:42 PM ET
Two-sport star focused on baseball
Rockies choose outfielder Smith with 50th overall pick
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
|Draft pick Seth Smith hopes to have as much big-league success as Todd Helton. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
DENVER -- Before Seth Smith agreed to play baseball and football at Ole Miss, he talked to Rebels football coach David Cutcliffe to make sure there'd be no problem with him devoting his springs to the diamond.
"Coach Cutcliffe said that he had Todd Helton at Tennessee, and he's a big baseball fan, so he agreed," Smith said.
Helton, now a star first baseman for the Colorado Rockies, backed up Peyton Manning with the Volunteers. Little did Smith know how closely he'd follow Helton's footsteps.
Smith, who was the backup to Eli Manning at Ole Miss, was drafted by the Rockies in the second round of Monday's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, 50th overall. Chris Nelson, a shortstop from Redan, Ga., was Colorado's first-round pick, ninth overall. Smith, who is currently 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds but looking to eventually add 10 more, was drafted as an outfielder.
Before going to Ole Miss, Smith was a football and baseball standout at Hillcrest Christian High in Brandon, Miss., and a 48th-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.
The 46-round improvement in his draft round registered as a mild surprise for Smith, who felt he had a disappointing season offensively at Ole Miss in 2004. He batted .287 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs for the Rebels, who advanced to NCAA Regional play.
"I didn't meet the expectations that I had for myself, or that the people around me had," Smith said. "But I tried to do things the right way and play winning baseball, and the team was able to make it pretty far."
But Smith has a history of potential, as evidenced by his performance last year with Team USA's amateur team, a team that won the silver medal at the Pan Am Games. He batted .322 with four home runs.
Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt noted that Smith's Team USA experience, which came on the heels of a strong collegiate season at Ole Miss, was the first time he had played baseball for an extended period. Because he was a football player, he never played baseball in the fall, and after the college season he had to spend time getting ready for the following football season.
"He scuffled this season, there's no doubt about it," Schmidt said. "We like his upside. We think once he gets away from football, he has a chance to blossom."
Smith said he talked to Damon Iannelli, a Jackson, Miss., resident and Colorado's scouting supervisor for that area, between the first and second rounds. They didn't discuss any finances, but did go over the fact that because he has played college football, his signing bonus can be spread over a number of years.
The Rockies hope the investment turns out as good as the one they made in Helton.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.