Dodgers pick hopes to inspire as cancer survivor

June 11th, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- With their fifth-round Draft pick Friday, the Dodgers got a left-handed pitcher and a righteous story.

Devin Smeltzer, ballplayer and cancer survivor, is using baseball and he's proud of it.

"It's really not about me anymore," said Smeltzer, a southpaw from San Jacinto College in Texas. "As long as I'm inspiring and giving kids hope, that's all that matters. Baseball gives me a platform to get my story out there and inspire kids that there's hope at end of the tunnel. If you work hard and have faith, anything can happen. It seems like yesterday I was sick and looking up to people like Cole Hamels and stuff like that, who give so much back to the community and to kids that are sick. It's a blessing to have a platform to give back to kids so they have someone to look up to that's been through it."

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Smeltzer helps raise funds for St. Christopher's Children's Hospital in Philadelphia through the Katie's Krusaders Charity. Katie Ann Duffin died of cancer at age 4 just before Smeltzer, at age 9, was diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized malignant mass against his bladder. After chemotherapy and radiation, in 2012 he was pronounced in complete remission.

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Fast-forward to Friday, when the Dodgers took the 20-year-old Smeltzer on the merits of a high school and college career, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound left-handed pitcher that reminds the Dodgers of Mark Buehrle.

"He's an artist on the mound, if you will," said Dodgers scout Clint Bowers. "He has an effective, funky, unique style that creates deception. He really hides the ball. The delivery and mechanics combine with the stuff for a real nice package. The curve is his bread and butter, but he has a four-pitch mix that keeps hitters guessing and off balance. They never know what's coming."

The Dodgers are pretty sure Smeltzer is coming to professional baseball, even though he has a commitment with Texas Tech. He was drafted out of high school by San Diego in the 33rd round in 2014 but instead went to Florida Gulf Coast University for a year, then transferred to San Jacinto College North.

Last Friday, Smeltzer struck out 20 in a 140-pitch semifinal win at the National Junior College World Series.

"I don't think he's been overworked at all," said Bowers. "He threw a no-hitter earlier and a couple of complete games, but I wouldn't say he's overworked in any way."

"I feel great physically," said Smeltzer, who went 9-3 with a 1.18 ERA in 91 2/3 innings this year.

Smeltzer said he can't wait to sign and report.

"I'm from South Jersey; I grew up a Phillies fan," he said. "But I'm ready to be a Dodger and excited about it."