Play-Calling Nothing New For Smith

Former quarterback utilizes old skills





CHICAGO—As a former starting quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh, Kevan Smith was accustomed to calling plays.

But since switching to baseball full-time, Smith is getting an education on calling a game as a catcher. As a result, the 24-year-old Smith is making impressive strides in his first full professional season at low Class A Kannapolis.

"A lot of people don't think football and baseball are similar, but in so many ways they are," said Smith, who started in three of the six games he played in as a redshirt freshman and sophomore for the Panthers' football team in 2007-08. "In football, you're looking at tendencies and coverages. Baseball is the same way in that you're studying pitchers and what they're throwing and what hitters are doing."

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Smith has made a favorable impression since signing in the seventh round of the 2011 draft as a fifth-year senior. He was batting .285/.352/.411 with five home runs and 52 RBIs in 78 games for the Intimidators.

"He's come a long way," said John Orton, the Sox's roving catching instructor. "The big adjustment for the guys coming out of college, especially catchers playing every day, is they're calling their own games and there's more going on. Compared to (short-season ball) to now, he's right where he should be.

"He's learning how to call a game and how to play every day. He's throwing the ball well. He's athletic. He's a big, strong kid who can swing the bat. He's got a chance to be a pretty good player."

Unlike many former football players, Smith said he has always stayed flexible thanks to workouts he learned at Pitt.

"I do miss throwing 315 (pounds) on the bench and start going at it," Smith said. "It's all about dumbbells and staying flexible and staying healthy. With how many games we play, the hardest thing is making sure I stay healthy, and I think everyone is excited to see how it goes."

CHI-LITES

• The Sox agreed to terms with Johan Cruz, 16, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic, when the international signing period began. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Cruz will receive a $450,000 signing bonus.

• After serving a 50-game suspension for a positive test for a performance-enhancing substance, Andre Rienzo was promoted to Double-A Birmingham and posted a 3-0, 1.16 record in four games. Rienzo hadn't allowed a home run while striking out 55 in 48 innings between high Class A Winston-Salem and Birmingham.