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ONE TO WATCH: As a freshman, Dominic Smith finished in the Top 10 of the Southern Section for batting average and hits while helping Gardena Serra reach the postseasonFirst baseman hit .597 in first season with Cavaliers and already has some thinking pro potential
By Evan BarnesSentinel Sports Editor
If this season was any indication, Gardena Serra first baseman/pitcher Dominic Smith won't take long to make his mark in the Southern California baseball scene.
Smith hit .597 with 46 hits, both Top 10 in the Southern Section according to MaxPreps. He easily made first team All Del Rey League. And he's only a freshman.
Serra head coach Wilmer Aaron has taught baseball techniques to young players for several years so when he offers praise on Smith's style, it's far from hyperbole.
"This kid could hit pro ball right now," Aaron said.
At 6 feet, 180 pounds, the young lefty has a sweet swing that can go for average and power. He can not only take pitches to opposite field, but has the patience to sit on a offspeed pitch and pounce on it.
Smith compares his game to Seattle Mariners second baseman Chone Figgins - a singles hitter who can kickstart an offense by getting on base. But Aaron is quick to point out his versatility at the plate.
Unlike most kids, Aaron said, Smith knows how to sit on pitches and use his back foot and hips to drive the ball to the opposite field.
"He has that hitter's timing and great baseball IQ," he added.
Growing up, Smith fell in love with baseball through his parents and his T-ball coach Craig Hackett, who worked with him at Ladera Park.
"He just loves the game," Hackett said.
Now he's one year into a high school career that's already put him on notice in baseball circles. After struggling early in the season, he said his game against Rosemead Bosco Tech on March 24 was the turning point.
"I went 5-for-5 with two triples and a double," Smith said. It was then he knew he would be successful the rest of the year.
He was a part of the Urban Youth Academy team that won the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) Boys Junior Division Championship last year and was invited to a tryout with the USA 16-and-under national team.
"I've played competitive ball my whole life. I always played up so when I came into high school, it was no big difference," he added.
Smith is part of the Cavaliers' young core that expects to do damage in the next two years. Sophomore Ron Miller, who transferred from Crenshaw and played with Smith on the RBI squad, carries a big stick at the plate after hitting seven home runs this year.
"Major league power" Aaron said of Miller.
But it's Smith who he feels could be one of the best hitters he's worked with. He said Darryl Strawberry possessed similar gifts, but it took him until his senior year to realize it.
The key now is to keep his young hitter humble and mentally ready for the next level. As he grows into his frame and more discover his talent, the mental side of the game will be next for him to master.
In his favor are good coaches in Aaron, Hackett and others who want to see him be another great success and a sign that there are still Black players who haven't abandoned the game.
"The sky is the limit for him," Aaron said.