Smith's first career slam a story of perseverance

April 18th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- As he stood in the on-deck circle with no one out, runners on second and third and at the plate facing a 3-0 count, had two thoughts going through his mind.

The first was he hoped that Carroll walked.

“I wanted it,” Smith said. “I wanted that runner on third with less than two outs.”

The other?

“I’m on deck and I’m like, 'I’ve never hit a grand slam yet. That would be pretty cool,'” Smith said.

Carroll drew a walk and Smith did indeed follow with his first career big league grand slam, capping a five-run inning as the D-backs beat the Cardinals, 6-3, on Monday night at Busch Stadium.

“I mean, I wasn’t thinking when I was up there to try and hit a grand slam,” Smith said. “But just before the AB, I was thinking, ‘You know, grand slams are cool.’”

They’re especially cool and satisfying when you’re a player who has been through what Smith has over the past year.

Last July, mired in a slump at the plate, Smith was sent to Triple-A Reno for what the club thought would be a short stretch to get his swing back. In his second game, though, Smith dove for a ball in right field and fractured his right wrist. He would not return to the D-backs until the final 10 days of the regular season.

In an effort to make up for the lost at-bats, Smith spent a month playing winter ball and he had a good spring for the D-backs. Unfortunately for him, Kyle Lewis had an even better one and beat Smith out for the final bench spot.

D-backs manager Torey Lovullo described having to tell Smith that he didn’t make the team as “brutal." 

"We are all Pavin Smith fans in this clubhouse," Lovullo said.

Smith, though, took the news in stride.

“It was fine,” he said. “It was much different than the last time I got sent down. I wasn't too upset about it. I don't really know why. I was just going to go down there and try to put together some good ABs to feel confident for when I did get called up.”

When he got to the plate in the seventh, he fell behind Andre Pallante 1-2 before working the count back to 2-2. Pallante then threw a curveball that Pavin got a piece of and grounded foul down the first base line.

Meanwhile, outfielder Jake McCarthy, who played with Smith at the University of Virginia and in the Minor Leagues, turned to a teammate and said, “If he throws him that curveball again, he’s going to hit it out.”

Lovullo also had a good feeling, though he wasn’t calling a home run.

“I thought the curveball that he fouled off down the first base line was an indication that he was locking onto it."

Smith, though, had a different thought going through his mind.

“I honestly thought he was going to go back to the heater,” Smith said. “And, for some reason, I just recognized the curveball and kind of sat back on it a little bit and put a good swing on it.”

The ball left his bat at 105 mph and traveled 414 feet.

“He made a great swing and it broke open the game,” Lovullo said.

And after months of working and perseverance, Smith finally had his moment.