Baseball alum Smith signs professional contract

Derek Smith
Former Panther Derek Smith

Former Pitt-Bradford Panther and baseball alum Derek Smith has reached an agreement with the Gary Southshore Railcats of Gary, Ind. The Railcats are a member of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball.

The organization is an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox minor league system. Smith signed a one year contract in the hopes of securing a starting role at either third base or catcher.

Smith first received an invite from the Railcats for a tryout in August when his coach from the Cape Cod League spoke with the Railcats organization about one of his former players. Smith received the call in late October and then signed his contract in late November.

“I am very excited to receive the offer and become part of the Gary Southshore Railcats organization,” said Smith. “The first person I called was Coach Butler. He was very excited for me and it meant a lot to speak to him. I have received a lot of support from family and friends and I hope I can use this opportunity to further my career.”

The left-handed infielder enjoyed a stellar two-year career in a Pitt-Bradford uniform. He spent the majority of his first season covering second base. In 2012, he opened the year with a 5-for-5 performance at the plate, recording a double in all five at-bats against Dickinson.  He drove in three runs and crossed the plate twice in a one point defeat.

Smith went on to lead the Panthers with a .482 batting percentage. He drove in a team-high 57 runs and cracked seven home runs, also good for first on the squad.

In 2013, he was off to another fast start, batting .667 in his first two outings. He settled into his new role at short stop and also spent time as the designated hitter for a stretch of five games.

His best performance came against Hilbert on April 17, when he went 4-for-5 at the plate and drove in an eye-popping 10 runs. He also crushed two home runs and went on to touch home twice himself in a 31-4 victory.  

Pitt-Bradford head baseball coach Bret Butler knew it was just a matter of time before Smith would receive an opportunity to continue his career professionally.

“I am very excited for Derek and this opportunity he has earned,” said Butler. “Words cannot describe how proud I am of him. His next goal will be to sign with a major league club. Derek Smith is a great ball player and I was fortunate and privileged to have been his college coach.”  

The Gary Southshore Railcats are currently in the offseason preparing for their upcoming 2014 schedule. Smith is home in Jersey Shore, Pa., where he is working with a personal trainer and strength coach to prepare him for his next step.  

“Being a rookie, I plan on doing whatever it takes to earn a starting role,” said Smith.   

The Railcats return to the diamond in April when they report for spring training in preparation for Opening Day on May 15, against the St. Paul Saints.