Canadian minor leaguer making strides

CHRIS TOMAN, Sports Network

, Last Updated: 1:54 PM ET

TORONTO -- It's been another successful season for Toronto native Tim Smith, as he continues to show why consistency is a trademark of his game.

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals' outfielder and two-time minor league All-Star is fresh off his third straight season of hitting the .300 mark, while providing a little bit of everything for the Kansas City Royals' Double-A affiliate.

Smith, who hit .306 with nine home runs, 50 RBI and 15 stolen bases, played a large role in the regular season success the Naturals enjoyed this year, which included first and second-half league titles en route to the Texas League playoffs.

"This season has been successful team-wise," Smith said. "I haven't really been on a club since I signed in pro ball that has dominated as much as we have. From one to nine in the order, every pitcher giving you a chance to win, it's been a crazy year.

"It seems like everyone is feeding off each other."

The Naturals had the league's highest team batting average at .291, a starting pitcher, Everett Teaford, who led the league in wins with 14 and a Triple Crown winner in designated hitter Clint Robinson (.335 - 29 - 98).

"It's pretty crazy," Smith said of his teammates' success. "It's a lot of fun to watch. It helps our offence break out, which helps our pitchers relax."

For Smith and the rest of his Naturals teammates, the hard work and regular season success is all for naught if they are unable to achieve the ultimate goals they've set forth.

"We're playing 140 games. Yes, everyone is tired but we've come this far, you want to win. You go through so much with people, you really pull for each other. Being a big family, you want the big goal from day one, to win a championship.

"You can smell it."

Baseball is a game of ups and downs, and while the humble 24-year old has the right mentality, he acknowledges the grind through the minor leagues can be difficult and one that requires support.

"You can't be stubborn and think you can go through baseball with so much failure by yourself," he said. "You need others to pick you up."

The relationship is reciprocal.

Smith picked up a large part of the slack for his teammates down the final stretch of the regular season. Over his last 10 games, Smith batted .406 (13- for-32) with four multi-hit games, entering the playoffs on a five-game hit- streak.

"I just love hitting," he said. "You only get four or five at bats a day, but I just love that feeling and pressure of breaking through and being successful when you're not supposed to."

The personal accolades have been plenty, including MVP honours in the 2008 Midwest minor league All-Star Game, but Smith is dedicated to improve his game and continue to do the things that got him this far. Complacency has never been a characteristic of his, as he understands the importance of outworking his competition.

"You got to have that mindset like, what are they doing right now, I got to be doing more," he said.

A self-proclaimed "hard-nosed type of player", Smith has a passion and work ethic that makes up for anything the career .300 minor league hitter might lack elsewhere.

"You only get what you put in," explained Smith

"I enjoy playing baseball for a living, I can't see myself doing anything else. I can't really control my destiny, so I'm going to try and keep everything positive."

While Smith is certainly focused on making a deep run in the playoffs, he has a good portion of his offseason mapped out already. Not surprisingly, it involves everything he can do to separate himself from his peers.

"Bang away. I want to be in top shape where I don't have to worry about catching up to anyone."

Unfortunately for the Naturals, they will be playing catch-up to start the playoffs. They were defeated 4-2 in 12 innings on Thursday night in Game 1 of their best-of-five series with the Springfield Cardinals. Smith went 2-for-5 in the losing effort.


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