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Mark Smith is looking forward to playing baseball at the Division I level at Sacred Heart University. Mark was an outfielder for the East Haven Senior American Legion team during the recent summer season. (Photo courtesy of Mark Smith )
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East Haven resident Mark Smith has signed on to play NCAA Division I baseball at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield come the spring of 2020. Mark saw his fair share of success playing at East Haven High School, Avon Old Farms, and in various travel leagues in order to land his chance at the next level. This summer, he competed for the East Haven Senior American Legion squad.
“The recruiting process was definitely long and a lot of hard work. I started going to more showcases to get more exposure, while trying to figure out what school I wanted to go to and what I wanted to major in,” Mark says. “I entered a showcase at Sacred Heart and performed well there. Them being one of my top choices, when they showed interest in me, I immediately capitalized on the opportunity.”
Following his junior year with the Yellowjackets, Mark decided to re-do his junior season at Avon Old Farms, thereby giving him two seasons of competing at a higher level. Mark says he’s glad that he made that decision, because the jump to the prep school level proved quite challenging.
“It was definitely a difficult transition. It’s a more advanced game up there, because it’s all guys going to the schools specifically for the sport,” says Mark, who also played two years of squash at Avon Old Farms. “It was more of a patchy transition for me because, as the game progressed, I had to progress, as well. Making the adjustments was difficult, but once I got comfortable, I jelled right away, so I could stay on track.”
Mark has patrolled the outfield throughout the past few years. Mark used to be a middle infielder, but then he made the position switch, and it ended up being a big positive in his career.
“I moved as way to help the team fill a spot, but ended up falling in love with the outfield,” Mark says. “I’m more of a corner outfielder, but I can play center, as well. I generally like playing corner outfielder more, because I like being able to play foul balls and having to deal with ball tail, compared to mostly moving back or forward in center.”
Still, Mark logged plenty of innings in center field for the East Haven Senior Legion team this summer. Mark believes the experience of playing center will help prepare him for what may lie ahead at Sacred Heart.
“It was definitely helpful to play center this summer. Being able to play a position that involves a lot of communication helps other aspects of the game,” says Mark. “Being in control of a large area is important to playing at the next level. It widens my range of the game and helps me see things from a different perspective.”
Head Coach Chuck Hinckley says that Mark brought his A-game to the field every day for the 89ers. Hinckley feels that Mark has what it takes to make an impact on the collegiate circuit.
“He’s pretty much an all-around player. He has all five tools. He has a good glove, he hits really well, and he’s got wheels. It was key to get him on base, because he scores,” Coach Hinckley says. “Being more mature makes a big difference, and he plays the game hard, too.”
While the 89ers didn’t have the best year in the win column, Mark feels thankful that he had the opportunity to play baseball for his hometown. Now, Mark is ready to embark on the next chapter of his baseball career.
“This year was definitely not a year we were expecting, but I don’t think our record was a good representation of how our season went. I thought it was great bonding with the guys, and I thought it was important for them to not only see the hardships of losing, but the satisfaction of winning,” says Mark. “Being one of the older guys on the team, I definitely had to have that role model aspect of myself. I found it to be fun playing with the guys and repping my town. It was like my last hurrah.”
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