Impact Baseball decided to head down highway 264 this morning to Wilson, North Carolina for this edition of "In The Dugout" with Jon Smith. Coach Smith is one of the top young coaches in North Carolina High School baseball today; he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Hunt High School. Since arriving at Hunt six years ago, he has turned that program into one of the top programs in the state.
Name: Jon Smith
Wilson Hunt Head Baseball Coach
Years at Hunt: 6
Location: Wilson, NC
What are your expectations this season for the Hunt Warriors?
I expect a fun year. We expect to compete for a conference championship and to be playing at our best when the playoffs arrive.
What are the strengths of this club?
While we don't have any overpowering arms, we do have plenty of depth on the mound with emerging young underclassmen and experienced upperclassmen. Our offense has a chance to be more consistent top to bottom. Our defense should be solid. We will need to find leadership as we graduated some outstanding leaders.
You always have very good varsity teams and the following year, you just reload. Is having a very good Junior Varsity program a key? Can you expand on that a little?
Our JV program is treated with care because that is the future. We practice together most days and the benefits of that have been countless. We have attainable goals for our JV program that fall in line with what's expected of our varsity. We also have had very good middle school and jv coaches which have tried to mirror what we do at Hunt, so kids know what to expect and the level of commitment it takes to be successful.
Players that come in the program at Hunt, get better every single year. By the time they are seniors, they are making huge contributions for your club. What's your message to those guys that come in as wide eyed freshman?
It means something to these kids to play baseball at Hunt. We try to personalize a program for each kid in all aspects, the weight room, on the field, and in the classroom, this shows them we care and they know it works based on results from previous player’s experience. As far as their work ethic goes, it’s all on them. We also have a lot of competition within our program which is always a good thing.
Ever since you have arrived at Hunt, Hunt has made alot of noise in the 3A state baseball playoffs. What's your magic?
Well we still have yet to win a state championship so obviously there's no magic wand or magic dust at Hunt. We do concentrate on the process and want to be playing our best at the end of the season. We work extremely hard and there is a plan in place to achieve that. Hard work, sacrifice, community support, and loyalty are four things that stand out when thinking of our recent success.
What's your most memorable game in your coaching career at Hunt High School?
One game? Can't do it! Our run in the 2010 playoffs was memorable. To see our guys go from not knowing they were good to thinking no one should beat them was memorable. We ran into E. Rowan and lost in the state championship but those kids battled each day in every aspect. That was a fun year!
Who's the best player you have coached at Hunt?
Hard to name just one but Zach Houchins (East Carolina INF) was one of the best hitters and could take over a game all by himself.
Tell me about your journey through the coaching ranks, where did it start?
I started as a pitching coach for the Bayside Yankees a successful showcase team from New York. We had four major league players and a first round draft pick on one of those teams. I learned a lot from that experience. I then went to St. John's University as a volunteer coach and held the same role at Duke University. I spent two seasons at Eastern Wayne as a JV coach and one season as a varsity assistant at Kinston HS.
You are of the top coaches in the state with a huge amount of knowledge. Who has had the most impression on you in your coaching career?
Coach Rabbit Fulghum has had the most influence but I would also have to mention the guys who coach many of the high schools we compete against each year. I have a huge amount of respect for them.
If you could sit down with any coach in the country, who would it be? What would you ask him?
Coach K. I would ask him what would he do different if he knew what he knows now; if his career started tomorrow.
What are your hobbies outside of baseball?
My hobbies outside of baseball are learning how to be a Dad, watching football, and playing basketball.
Who's your favorite MLB player?
My favorite player growing up was Roger Clemens, but now it’s Derek Jeter. But, my all-time favorite player is Ty Cobb.
Who's your favorite MLB team?
New York Yankees
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?
How's the year old baby doing? Has he picked up a baseball yet?
He is 18 months old and is doing great. He loves balls, bubbles, shovels, rakes, and the three wheeler at the baseball field. He did pick up a baseball early, but loves basketball the most.
Impact Baseball would like to thank Jon Smith for his "In The Dugout" interview. We would like to wish him and the Warriors the best of luck this spring.
More exciting interviews here to come from Impact Baseball, stay tuned....