Impact Baseball decided to do a double interview session on this Tuesday morning. Earlier this morning we traveled out to Newton Grove, now we decided to sit down with Mr. Axel Smith as he looks to build a powerhouse program at The Oakwood School located in Greenville, N.C. Coach Smith comes from powerhouse programs during his time as a player in North Carolina baseball, he played for a National Championship team at North Carolina Wesleyan College and in high school for Rose that was ranked fifth in the nation his senior year.
Name: Axel Smith
Oakwood Head Baseball Coach
Years at Oakwood: 1st Year
Classification: 1A Independent
Location: Greenville, N.C.
How has it been the last six month, taking over the Oakwood program?
It’s been very exciting; to have a chance to build a program from the ground up is a very neat experience. I am very blessed to have this opportunity; I am going to continue to work hard to make this a great program and build a tradition here at Oakwood.
What should people expect this season for the Oakwood Eagles?
One thing I can guarantee that is our guys are going to play the game hard and the right way. Those are two important aspects that are expected here with the Eagles.
Playing for Coach Fox (UNC Head Baseball Coach) at North Carolina Wesleyan and winning a National Championship was a special accomplishment. What did Coach Fox teach you to help you further your career down the line as a coach?
Coach Fox taught me a lot during my time at North Carolina Wesleyan. The main thing he taught me was each player is different; you have to coach each player as their own person. Once you can get a player to trust what you are trying to do with each one of them, they will play hard for you as a coach. Coach also taught me to get to know players weaknesses and strength. Always analyze a players strength’s greater than their weakness. Build on success and commit to excellence and at the end of the day the player and the coach have the same goals to be successful.
Playing your high school baseball at Rose High, you set the home run record there.. That's pretty impressive with all the big name players ever to come through that program. What's your approach to hitting?
My approach was easy; I wanted to hit anything that was straight. You were going to have to show me you could get your off speed over the plate for strikes. Even if I had a strike on me and you threw me another breaking pitch, I would take it. My mindset in the box was - wait on the pitch that was coming in on a plane and I could get my bat through the zone for solid contact.
What do you feel like the most important parts of the game of baseball are?
Defense, Defense, Defense!! I can’t say it enough; when I was in high school we (Rose) were ranked fifth in the country and could outslug anyone. We did not even win the state that year due to the defensive side of the ball, we could score an enormous amount of runs but at the end of the day defense wins championships.
In the coaching profession, what is the main aspect you preach to the kids?
The main aspect with me is hustle, hustle does not need to be taught. If you are going to play this game for me you have to play 110% everyday not just one day all the time. That is something you can control, you might not hit every day but you sure can get after it with no excuses.
What position did you play in college?
In high school I played catcher, but when I arrived at North Carolina Wesleyan Coach Fox needed me to play second base. I would have drove the bus if he needed me to, I was about playing anywhere I could to help the team win baseball games.
If you could sit down with any coach in the world and pick their brain, who would it be and why?
Coach K, no doubt. As I watch his teams year after year at Duke and how he coaches each team differently and they continue to strive to be one of the best in the nation is awesome. Watching him make adjustments in the game with the hand he is dealt, is truly one of the great ingredients about him. The man can coach at Duke, NBA players and he demands respects. Respect is not given, it is earned and the man has respect of many people on this planet.
Who’s the one player in North Carolina High School baseball you love watching?
Wood Myers (UNC Commit), that guy plays hard all the time and he gets after it. He is my kind of player.
If you could pick any sporting match up to go watch, who would it be and why?
Red Sox vs Yankees. I love the Red Sox, I would love to watch that matchup.
What are your hobbies outside of baseball?
If I am not working, I am around sports all the time. I have a son Aaron who is a senior at Pfeiffer University playing on the baseball team; and two younger children that also play basketball and baseball.
What's your favorite food?
Steak and Ribs
What's your favorite movie?
Cobb (The life story of Ty Cobb)
What's your favorite television show?
Sanford and Son
What's your favorite MLB team?
Boston Red Sox
Impact Baseball would like to thank Mr. Axel Smith for his "In The Dugout" interview. We want to wish him and the Eagles the best of luck this coming Spring..
Stay tuned for more interviews to come from Impact Baseball...