Tuesday night, in the second inning at Citi Field, former Met Dominic Smith hit a double off Mets’ starter Kodai Senga. The Washington Nationals’ first baseman took a short lead after getting his first extra-base hit since July of last year.
Extra-base hits, scoring runs, the smile, and Smith was content at Citi Field. He loved New York, the fans, restaurants, attending his first boxing event at Madison Square Garden. The injuries and fighting for a spot in the Mets lineup hindered his playing time.
But there was Pete Alonso at first base. Smith battled for playing time and was inconsistent when presented opportunities. The business of baseball though can change the complexion of a team and player.
He was released and the Nationals called. Dominic Smith is content, though this time with a team in the rebuilding process and a one-year contract.
“It feels good to be back,” Smith said “My time with the Mets were some of the biggest memories of my life and something I have to ever be grateful for. Made me the man I am today, dealt with adversity, seek true happiness all around.”
Situated near his dressing area in front of the Nationals clubhouse, Smith was relaxed and talking to a few of the younger players that are a part of their rebuilding team. His former team was down the hall, a place that was once his comfort zone in the home clubhouse, but for the first time since 2016, Smith was on the other side.
This was familiar, yet unfamiliar territory for him. Memories of being with J.D. Davis, a former and close teammate who is content with the San Francisco Giants. At one time Smith and Davis were a tandem, and when the clubhouse doors opened a competitive table tennis game between the two was a recurring event.
“Glad to see he is doing well,” Smith commented when asked if he and Davis were still that tandem with different teams. “Yeah, we both had great times here. You can never forget our times here.”
“Everything happens for a reason. Just very blessed and thankful still being in the big leagues and able to play. Very grateful to the Washington Nationals for the opportunity. Just want to help these youngsters get these Nationals where they want to be.”
There was that time when Smith, a first round draft pick of the Mets, would listen to veterans in the Mets clubhouse. He was a favorite of then manager Terry Collins who mixed and matched Smith in the lineup, as Alonso’s presence in the lineup gave the Mets a potent home run threat.
Smith has gone away from trying to be a home run hitter, focusing more on getting on base. The Nationals, projected to again finish last in the National League East, will need to find ways to score runs.
“Important in every lineup,” Smith said about getting on base and accumulating runs. “We do get on base if we just get that big hit, obviously get more good at bats. We know it’s still early. We still need to get it going, come in and work hard and get those big at bats.”
Tuesday evening, Smith went 1-for-4 with a single. The Mets showed a brief tribute for him on their big video board with some of those highlight moments at Citi Field. It seemed like yesterday, an 18-year old drafted, who visited Citi Field for the first time. This time, though, the Nationals were his emphasis.
“Man, I did not like playing the Nationals when I was with the Mets,” he 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.”
With more playing time, Dominic Smith says he has more confidence. A pitch clock, he said, has changed the game and his approach at the plate.
“Game is a lot faster,” he said. “You feel you do get rushed at times. We need a little more time, something for hitters, for pitchers. You seeing some guys getting injured, they believe it’s because of that.”
Overall, Smith believes the pitch clock is good for the game and eventually will be improvised. Adjustments, he said, are a part of the game, as has been in new surroundings with the Nationals.
Overall, Dominic Smith is content with the Nationals. In the lineup everyday, healthy, and confident.
Rich Mancuso:Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso.