Since I started taking on challenges, I’ve gone against some of the area’s best athletes.
I’ve run hurdles and golfed with state qualifiers. I’ve jumped and played basketball with state medalists and varsity all-stars.
I’ve competed with kids going on to compete at the college level, ready to excel at a high level of college sports.
This challenge was a bit different.
This challenge wasn’t against a high school star. It wasn’t against someone ready to head to college. It wasn’t against a varsity standout.
This challenge was against Addie Smith. This challenge was against someone who is league age 11 for softball.
And, no matter her age, Smith is good, really, really good.
I stepped into the batter’s box and tried to hit off Smith. And, what I learned is that Smith can throw, really hard.
The first pitch she threw was right down the middle. And, I stared at it, not moving the bat off my shoulder.
Maybe I was caught off guard by the speed. Maybe I just didn’t know what to expect, but it showed me very quickly how good Smith is.
Smith isn’t like most girls her age.
She’s won two district titles in Little League, and she works out, a lot, to improve.
Smith spends a lot of time working out with Troy softball star Riley McClellan, who will play at Lock Haven next year.
“During the winter it was almost three or four times a week, it was a lot,” McClellan said of how much her and Smith worked out.
It’s a lot more than McClellan ever imagined doing at that age.
“I wasn’t even that serious about it, not even close,” McClellan said.
For Smith, she puts in time working on her pitches, and working on her strength.
“I try and throw different pitches and lifting,” Smith said. “Lifting weights is fun, but also can be tiring.”
While lifting weights can be tiring, Smith has good people to learn from.
She works with McClellan. Her dad, Kyle Smith, is a football coach and varsity softball assistant, and she has learned a lot from them.
“I was surprised,” McClellan said. “She can squad almost as much as me, which is crazy. She just works so hard.”
The rest of my at-bat was never much better than the first pitch.
I took some pitches, and if this had been a real game, I would have worked the count full, before chasing a pitch to strike out.
McClellan knows the command is something that Smith keeps working on, as do all players in that age group, but she feels like the youth star is already throwing harder than half of the pitchers that McClellan has faced at the varsity level.
“It’s right up there,” McClellan said. “She obviously doesn’t have the location down like a varsity pitcher yet, but definitely her speed, I would say it’s better than 50% of the high school players.”
And, Smith learned to pitch the right way.
If all of her success at this level reminds you of former Troy star Kate (Pratt) Wright, then it’s only fitting to hear about how Smith learned to pitch.
When she was six years old, Wright spend the summer babysitting, and she had one instruction, teach Smith how to pitch.
And, the former Mansfield University All-American did just that. Within two years Smith was pitching in big games.
“I am lucky to be able to work with Kate,” McClellan said. “And, she is to, we all are.”
Smith already spends a lot of her time around the Troy team, with her dad in the dugout at varsity games, learning from Wright and the players.
“It’s a lot of experience watching the girls at a bigger level play and I get to know what to do,” Smith said.
McClellan knows that Smith can learn from the older girls.
“I think it helps her with the knowledge of the game,” McClellan said. “She can see what her expectations are at this level and what the standards are for high school ball. I think she’s learned a lot.”
From this challenge, I also learned a lot.
I learned firsthand what so many girls have seen at the youth level.
I learned exactly why Smith has well over 200 strikeouts in travel ball.
I learned what it feels like to be struck out by Addie Smith. Something that I’m sure a lot of opponents of the Troy Majors softball team this summer will quickly learn as well.