Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. hopes for a 2020 season that is more than virtual - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. hopes for a 2020 season that is more than virtual

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Orioles outfielder Dwight Smith Jr. found a creative way to pass the time during the coronavirus pandemic. He played a video game for everyone to watch.

Smith earned manager of the year honors for his team’s fifth-place finish in MLB The Show 20, a video game.

He hopes that the 2020 Orioles get to play real games instead of just virtual ones.

“Playing on that side of it was pretty cool,” Smith said in a video conference call on Wednesday. “Giving the fans something to talk about and cheer for, it was a cool experience.”

Smith, a 27-year-old, who was born and still lives in Peachtree City, Georgia, hit .267 (8-for-30) with five RBIs during spring training. In 2019, Smith hit .241 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs.

He hopes that fans “saw my more relaxed side and my more competitive side at the same time. When I’m on the game, I’m all business. When I’m off the field, I’m a totally different person. I’m more relaxed,” he said.

“Just chill, having fun. When I’m playing a game, I just flip that switch. They saw two different sides of me.”

Smith enjoyed managing the virtual Orioles and said he didn’t have a favorite.

“I like playing with all of them,” he said. “Every one had their moment during that season that I played. I liked bringing Chris Davis in … [He] hit a homer. That was cool.”

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Smith enjoyed watching his leg kick at the plate, and getting game-winning hits.

“Hopefully, we’ll do that in the season, too,” Smith said.

The virtual Orioles featured Trey Mancini, who won’t play in 2020 because of surgery for colon cancer. Smith was delighted to have him in the video game.

“He’s one of the hearts and souls of our team,” Smith said. “Him hitting homers is nothing new. I honestly thought a lot of guys weren’t rated as high [in the video game], and Trey was one of them. He should have had a higher rating than what he did, especially with the year he had last year. I hope they do a little update to boost him a little bit.”

Smith doesn’t know when or if there will be a real season, but he said he’s prepared

“I kind of treat it the same,” Smith said. “I get ready, just how I normally would. We don’t have a date where we know where we’re going, to get down to Florida, to start spring training. I feel like as long as I keep my mentality right, stay positive, I’ll be right back on track, where I need to be.”

Smith said he does have concerns.

“We want to make sure it’s 100 percent safe,” Smith said. “When they give us the go, if they do to restart back up again, we don’t want to contract that virus and pass it around to others among ourselves and get other people sick … Whenever it’s a really safe time to go, I think that would be the best opportunity.”

During the eight weeks since play was halted on March 12, Smith has been relaxing with his family, watching movies and playing board games. He tries to work out on his own.

“There’s not much I’m really doing besides that,” Smith said. He did allow he’s done some podcasts and some DJ work. In the past, he had a laptop to do mixtapes. With additional time, he might do more of that. His sister also convinced him to learn TikTok.

This year, Smith will get to spend Mother’s Day at home for the first time since he was the Toronto Blue Jays’ first-round pick in 2011. A year ago, Smith hit a home run on May 12, Mother’s Day, against the Los Angeles Angels.

Smith celebrated by mouthing “Hi, Mom” to the television camera.

“I think I’m going to enjoy this Mother’s Day a lot,” Smith said. “I’m going to cherish this moment, for sure. There’s not too many Mother’s Days I get to be around my mom.”

Smith, whose father, Dwight Sr., had an eight-year career with the Chicago Cubs, California Angels, Atlanta and 28 games with the Orioles in the strike-shortened 1994 season, isn’t ready to think about a managerial career.

“I probably won’t get into that until after I’m done playing,” Smith said. “I’ll let Brandon [Hyde] handle that.”

He doesn’t second-guess moves he made virtually.

“You make a decision, you’ve got to live with it,” Smith said.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. BirdsCaps

    May 8, 2020 at 12:38 am

    I enjoyed the interview, but generally could care less about athletes playing video games, however I am happy him and some spectators do enjoy it. As for Smiths comment on waiting for it to be safe, he didn’t really give a specific answer, as to what safe means. Unfortunately, it looks like a minimal to 0% chance of clubs getting it isn’t going to happen this yr or maybe for a few yrs. Baseball and society writ large will likely have to accept a new level of risk, or be locked away for the foreseeable future.

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