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LCHS grad Eric Smith catches on, set to sign with Los Angeles Dodgers

La Cañada High grad forgoes senior season on diamond with Stanford to enter Dodgers farm system.

June 12, 2012|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
(Courtesy of Bob…)

After a bit of a roller coaster ride with the Stanford University baseball team over the past three years, La Cañada High graduate Eric Smith is set to begin his climb up the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league farm system.

"I am going to sign and start my professional career," said Smith, who was drafted by the Dodgers in the 18th round at No. 566 overall June 6 in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. "It's kind of funny, my family have gone to Dodger games my entire life, it's kind of weird to be drafted by the team I've grown up with — the hometown team. I knew it was a possibility … but the draft is so unpredictable you don't know what's going to happen or where it's going to take you."

Smith hasn't officially signed with the Dodgers yet, as Stanford's season ended Sunday, but he hopes to do so this weekend or early next week. He expects to be assigned to the Ogden Raptors in Utah or Arizona League Dodgers, minor league rookie affiliates with the Dodgers.

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"I don't know where I will be yet," Smith said. "I just look forward to signing and to start playing right away."

Former La Cañada High Coach Dennis Ballard wasn't surprised when Smith, whom he coached for three years, was drafted.

"There was no question in my mind [he would be drafted]," said Ballard, who stepped down at the end of this season after 10 years with the Spartans. "I would say he was a phenom. He just did everything right in baseball and nothing got in his way. He was dissatisfied with average, he was never going to be average."

Smith, a 2009 La Cañada High graduate, will still return to the place that paved his way to professional career — Stanford University — in the fall and winter to complete his senior year and earn his political science degree.

On the ball field, it was this season at Stanford that Smith began catching — the position he was drafted at — as the Cardinals coach moved him from the middle infield where he's played most of his career.

"I was taken back a little bit [when coach told me] because catching is unlike any other position," Smith said. "It's the most different position you can take on, it's not like you're moving to another side of the field."

Smith handled himself well in his first year behind the plate, as he posted a .984 fielding percentage with six errors in 386 chances and caught nine of 18 would-be base stealers, but it was his bat that led to him being drafted.

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