Indiana University head baseball coach Tracy Smith made a name for himself this season after leading IU to its first outright Big Ten title in 81 years, and then on to its first appearance and win in the College World Series. Smith credits his ability to teach "sound fundamentals" and blend players from different high schools into a team as something he learned during his days playing American Legion Baseball for Post 280 in Remington, Ind.
"I remember coming up to the high school just wanting and hoping to be one of the guys that they (Legion coaches) were looking at to pick to be able to play for Post 280," he said.
Due to IU’s successful 2013 baseball season, Smith hopes that "there is an offshoot that kids can see, particularly kids that played American Legion ball in Indiana, that you can play good baseball, and you can do it from the North. Travel ball has been kind of a big thing here lately, but we still recruit guys from The American Legion (baseball teams). It doesn’t matter (who you played for); a good player is a good player."
In his 16 years as a head coach, eight at his alma mater Miami University of Ohio and eight with IU, Smith has watched 46 of his players be selected in Major League Baseball’s draft. It’s an experience he understands himself as he was selected in the 39th round by the Chicago Cubs during the 1988 MLB Draft. Smith played three seasons of minor league baseball in the Cubs organization. Even though he’s had a taste of the big leagues, Smith still encourages young players to attend college rather than advance straight to the minors.
"They (players) have a chance to develop as baseball players (at college) and better prepare for the rigors of professional baseball," he said.
Smith helped IU end its 2013 season with many firsts, including him being named the National College Baseball Writers Association Coach of the Year. He was also named the Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Amidst all the acclaim and a busy schedule, Smith still makes it back to his hometown of Kentland, Ind., to see his former Legion Baseball coach Craig LaBoe and watch Post 280 play. "Whenever I am in the area, I will drop by and try to catch him and see if (Post 280) is playing. LaBoe and I still remain in contact, and he comes to my games now."