Jim's Notebook: Smyly's Rise To Detroit Will Stir Young Dreams at Junior Deputy; Masters Time; Cal's Connections

by Jim Harris  on Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012 3:36 pm  

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

Benton and Bryant have seen some native sons make recent dramatic rises to the Major League level — Benton's Cliff Lee winning a Cy Young Award and starring most recently for the Philadelphia Phillies, while Bryant's Travis Wood has found a home in the bigs. It's been a while, however, since Little Rock's youth baseball leagues groomed a player that reached the big time. That time finally was realized last week when Drew Smyly, the former Arkansas Razorback who starred at Little Rock Central High School and before that came though the Little Rock Junior Deputy baseball program, was anointed as the fifth starter on the Detroit Tigers' pitching staff.

Smyly's rise through the Tigers' organization has been swift. Like Cliff Lee, Smyly left the University of Arkansas after his junior year, and hot college prospects tend to make a quick impact compared with the high school phenom who toils in the minors in his late teens. But Smyly, who turns 23 in June, even managed to bypass Triple-A, where he was penciled in after last summer, to figure into Manager Jim Leyland's plans with the parent Tigers in 2012.

Back home, thanks to Smyly's example, hundreds of youngsters at the Bill and Skeeter Dickey Complex off Cantrell Road will be reminded this spring what can happen with hard work and perseverance.

At High-A (Lakeland) and then at Double-A Erie last year, Smyly was a combined 11-6 with a 2.07 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 126 innings. He only walked 15 and gave up just 2 homers.

In his last exhibition work, Smyly gave up four earned runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. Leyland said Smyly "pitched well," the Detroit Free Press said. He was shutting out Toronto through four innings before a rough fifth.

"He wants to get better," Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones said of Smyly before the game.

"He's inexperienced, but he knows he has a lot of things he needs to learn. We'll try to nurture him along and not give him too much information, but give him enough."

All that matters here is that moms and dads and Junior Deputy supporters will be pointing toward Smyly and telling young boys, "That could one day be you."

TERRIFIC SPRING WEEK: Any time you can start the week with the NCAA men's national championship game and end it with the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., it's the best week of spring.

Locally, the First Tee of Central Arkansas will be entertaining its supporters and golf lovers Thursday with "A Day at the Masters" at the facility off South University Avenue. Now its own tradition, the First Tee event runs the same day as the actual Masters first round at Augusta National Golf Club.

After a two-man scramble Thursday afternoon, with First Tee youths serving as caddy/ambassadors on the tee boxes of the par-3 Honors Course, everyone is invited to a evening soiree featuring silent and live auctions, Masters-style food and drink and a raffle to win a trip to this year's U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. "A Day at the Masters" is one of the local First Tee's leading annual fund-raisers.

Call the First Tee at 501-562-4653 for more information on the event or for tickets.



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