Dom Smith on BLM movement, speaking out
NEW YORK -- Even before Dominic Smith arrived at Summer Camp earlier this month, he had received countless messages of support from both his Mets teammates and friends around the league. Many had seen Smith’s Instagram post condemning racial injustice in a raw outpouring of words, as well as an emotional SNY interview in which he related specific examples of the racism he has encountered at times in his career.
Since opening his heart to the world, Smith has been floored by the response he has seen from those near and far.
“It just showed their outpouring of love and support for me, for my community, for the things that I’ve gone through, for the things that we’ve gone through,” Smith said. “I can’t even put some of those things in words.”
Within the Mets community, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has encouraged his players to be outspoken regarding social issues important to them. For Smith, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, that sort of support has meant the world.
“A lot of guys want to speak out and speak up, and that’s something that over the years, we really did worry about and we were scared,” Smith said. “I think that more guys around the league are feeling more comfortable and feeling more open to talk about these issues, because a lot of people are starting to make them feel comfortable. And they want to learn. And they want to help change.”
In terms of the impact he can have on the world, Smith knows that baseball is secondary to the current wave of social change. But baseball is his vehicle to have a voice.
On the field, Smith is entering a critical season in which the presence of a designated hitter in the National League could give him more opportunities than before. Last year, Smith not only missed two months due to a stress fracture in his left foot, but lost any chance he might have had at regular first-base duties when Pete Alonso broke out as the National League Rookie of the Year Award winner. Smith began seeing time in left field instead, but he again fell down the depth chart when J.D. Davis broke out with a productive stretch while Smith was on the sideline.
Fearing he might be forgotten, Smith made an indelible stamp on the season when he hit a walk-off three-run homer in extra innings in Game 162, giving the Mets one final reason to smile despite missing the playoffs. It is a home run that he is drawing upon now, with the 2020 season approaching.
“That was probably the biggest moment of my career,” Smith said. “For me to come back and do that, and then remind the team that they still have a pretty good young player in me, was definitely something that was the icing on the cake for me last year, and something that helped me for this year in 2020, and just something I wanted to build off of, because I know what I’m capable of doing. I just want to continue to show the world, show the league what I can do.”
Mets officials have yet to reveal how they will portion out their DH reps this season, other than to say that a mix of players will man the position. Yoenis Céspedes figures to receive the lion’s share of opportunities, with Jed Lowrie and Robinson Canó claiming many others. But there should still be room for Smith to take at-bats as a DH, for him to play first base on days when Alonso is the DH or for him to grab some starts in left field.
If nothing else, Smith can have an impact similar to last season, when he batted .286 with two home runs and a 1.031 OPS as the Mets’ primary left-handed pinch-hitter.
Whatever his role, he intends to make the most of it.
“I love baseball,” Smith said. “I’ve been dreaming about baseball every day. I’ve been wanting baseball. So I’m very happy that we’re here.”