Just four games into his Major League career, Will Smith delivered a walk-off home run in what was also his first career homer. Then after a brief stint back in Triple-A Oklahoma City, Smith hit another walk-off home run, giving the Los Angeles Dodgers an MLB record.
While Smith’s first home run undeniably will stand as a lifetime highlight, his game-winner against the Colorado Rockies arguably was a more impressive baseball accomplishment. Smith took a hanging slider and lifted it over the right-center field fence for an opposite-field homer.
The trajectory suggested a deep fly ball, perhaps an extra-base hit, before continuing to carry until it cleared the wall.
“Off the bat, no,” Smith answered when asked if he believed he hit a home run. “I mean, I knew I hit it good but it was the big part of the field. I didn’t know if it was going to get out. I looked up and saw it go over and started celebrating.”
The sentiment was shared by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “First, I thought [Rockies center fielder Garrett Hampson] was going to catch it,” he said.
“Then I thought it was going to hit some outfield grass. I just thought it got in on him. But in day games here, the ball does carry, and Will is a really, really strong young man. Pretty impressive.”
Roberts attributed his 24-year-old catcher getting enough of a swing off to a winter spent focused on improving and refining mechanics. “I definitely knew that there was pull power,” Roberts said.
“To carry to right-center field, with the ball in on you, that’s a different level of strength. He’s really worked on his swing mechanics this last year and a half. He’s obviously comfortable with it and getting off a lot of good swings.”
After hitting a combined 15 home runs through his first two prefessional seasons, Smith slugged a career-high 20 (19 with Double-A Tulsa) last year. He already is up to 14 for Oklahoma City this season.
For Smith, it was simply a matter of shoring up his swing, rather than a full overhaul. “Just cleaning up the mechanics with it, being a little more direct to the ball and staying on the ball a little bit,” he explained.
Prior to rejoining the Dodgers, Smith had a streak of five games with a home run, and one in six of seven games. “Just getting a little more consistent with my swing, more consistent contact,” he said. “I’ve always had a little bit of power that way.
“I feel like my swing is dialed in right now and I’m making good contact on the ball.”
He was in position to become the latest Dodgers rookie that played hero thanks to the Rockies opting to intentionally walk Russell Martin in a decision that didn’t exactly stun Smith.
“I mean, I think they wanted to go after me, I guess, and took their chance after that,” he said. “It could’ve gone either way.”