Nats' trip to NY special for this player

April 26th, 2023

stepped onto Citi Field as an opponent for the first time in his Major League career on Tuesday. For 10 years, he was a member of the Mets organization -- from the 2013 Draft out of high school until he became a free agent this past winter. And for six seasons in the big leagues, Queens was his baseball home.

“Going in the back way was definitely a different way for me to go in -- the tunnel, everything was a little bit different today,” Smith said from inside the visitors' clubhouse. “But yeah, you definitely do have memories when you come back here. Obviously, I was drafted here and I remember coming here after I got drafted [at] 17, 18 years old, so it's pretty fun still being able to come back here and play baseball.”

The Mets welcomed Smith back with a tribute video ahead of the series opener against the Nationals. Smith tipped his cap as the crowd commemorated his 447 games with New York.

“I would just say that my time with the Mets was just some of the biggest memories of my life and something that I just have to forever be grateful for,” Smith said. “It made me, I feel like, the man I am today and helped me deal with adversity and just learn how to seek true happiness. So I think it made me all around just a better person being here.”

Smith is back this week as the Nationals' starting first baseman. Of the 49 games he had appeared in against the Nats, 22 took place at Citi Field.

“Oh man, I did not like playing the Nationals when I was with the Mets,” Smith said. “They had great pitching, great offense, so that was always a dogfight. So now being on this side, I want to make it tough for those guys as well.”

Smith is eyeing a turnaround from his final season with the Mets that included being demoted to the Minor Leagues and non-tendered. He signed a one-year deal with the Nationals in January.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Smith said. “And I'm just very blessed and thankful just to still be here, still be in the big leagues and still have an opportunity to play and win ball games. So, I'm extremely happy. I'm very thankful for the Washington Nationals organization for giving me the opportunity and a chance to come out here and play. I just want to help these young guys, help myself and the whole organization get back to where we were in 2019.”

Smith returned to New York batting .233 on the season. On Tuesday, he went 1-for-4 with a single and a walk on the familiar field.

“It’s always good to come back to your former team, and I think he understands that,” said manager Dave Martinez. “He was here for a long time. I talked to him a little bit about the city and all the different places he lived while he was here. Hopefully today, this will jumpstart him a little bit and he could have the same performance that he did against us against them.”