Father coached, mentored Mariners infielder from T-ball through June MLB debut
By Josh Horton
SEATTLE -- Ron Smith, the father of Mariners infielder Tyler Smith, sat patiently in the players' family section behind home plate at Safeco Field waiting for his son to approach the batter's box.
Tyler, who was called up earlier that day, was hitting in place of Robinson Cano in the eighth inning of the Mariners' 12-4 blowout win over the Rays on June 2 in Seattle. His first Major League at-bat was imminent.
As Tyler took his warmup cuts, Ron left his seat to crouch behind the Mariners' dugout for the best angle of his son's at-bat. A stadium usher tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to return to his seat.
Ron explained his situation and how he wished to record the best video possible of the moment.
"Really? That's awesome," the usher replied, and proceeded to direct him to the spot for optimal video-taking. Ron, the usher and the rest of the crowd at Safeco Field looked on as Tyler ripped a double down the left-field line.
It was a serene and dreamlike moment for Ron and Tyler, who share a strong bond through baseball.
"I'm so glad he was able to be here for that," Tyler said. "Absolutely would not be here without him."
Tyler, the Mariners' eighth-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, shared a special bond with his father through a shared love of baseball. Ron was Tyler's coach growing up, from T-ball to travel ball, and always there to play catch and take him to the batting cages.
He attributes much of his baseball development to his father.
"[My father] taught me to play the game the right way," Tyler said. "Play hard, work hard and be a good person on and off the field. I think that can translate to stuff on the field. He was just my biggest influence for sure. He played the game and taught me everything he knew."
And most importantly, according to Tyler, he was there for the rough times.
Tyler, a Thousand Oaks, Calif., native, wasn't a blue-chip prospect coming out of high school and the nearby programs in Southern California did not court him originally. Only a scholarship offer and a subsequent commitment from Oregon State provoked the local schools to take a second look.
After three successful years as a Beaver, Tyler didn't hear his name called in the 2012 MLB Draft.
"He's had to prove people wrong since I can remember," Ron said. "Especially when he went into high school. He was always young for his age. He didn't really grow. He didn't have the physical development that other kids did, and he had to do it a fundamental way and get the most out of his size and strength."
It's worked out fine for Tyler, although there are still some disappointing times.
Tyler's first callup was supposed to be in early May during the Mariners' road series against Toronto. Ariel Miranda and Guillermo Heredia were delayed in traveling over the Canadian border due to visa issues, but those were resolved, and Smith wasn't needed after all.
But after Jean Segura went on the disabled list with a high-ankle sprain on June 2, Tyler was added to the Mariners' 25-man roster.
Tyler's dreams of being a big leaguer became real in that moment. And as he worked out the logistics of flying from Fresno, Calif. -- where the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers, was playing -- to Seattle, Tyler picked up his cell phone and dialed Ron's number.
Just like he's always dreamed of doing.
"I've wanted to make that call for so long," Smith said. "Making that call was very emotional for me and him."
Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.