Former Charlotte 49er Andrew Smith has a little more baseball in him this season and headed out to Tempe, Arizona, the city in which he won Charlotte's third NCAA Regional game in June of 2011 to sign a contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Monday. The Matthews, N.C. native will head to practice Tuesday in preparation for the Arizona League Angels season-opener Wednesday. When he makes his debut, he will become the 61st 49er to play pro baseball with an affiliated team.
"I feel blessed for the opportunity to chase this lifelong dream of mine to play baseball as a professional," said Smith.
Since the end of Charlotte's season, on May 19, Smith has been running, lifting and throwing as if the season had continued, staying in shape for the draft and beyond. When his name was not called, Smith, the 2011 Atlantic 10 Pitcher of the Year, was not deterred.
"The Angels called me up last week and asked if I still wanted to play and of course I said yes. They called back last Saturday and said to get out to Arizona, so I flew out on Sunday and met with them on Monday to sign the contract."
In 2011, Smith pitched Charlotte to just its third postseason win in school history at Packard Stadium, home of the Arizona State Sun Devils. He tossed 7.1 innings, limiting the No. 19 Arkansas Razorbacks to five hits and a run, striking out four and walking just one. It capped off a magical season for Smith, who became just the ninth pitcher in team history to achieve a 10-win season.
In his senior season, Smith won five games, leading the team with 60 strikeouts in 90 innings, holding opponents to a .234 batting average. His finest outing of the season was a complete-game victory at Temple on April 13, holding the Owls to one run in a 10-1 victory. He tossed nine innings in his last outing of the year, but the game was tied 2-2 and went extra innings against St. Bonaventure and he did not get a decision despite seven strikeouts and one walk, scattering six hits in the 126-pitch effort. He also limited NCAA Regional qualifier Dallas Baptist to just one run on four hits in seven strong innings at home on March 15.
For his career, Smith finished fourth all-time with 49 starts and collected the sixth-most wins in team history with 49. His 311.2 innings pitched were seventh-most, as were his 230 career strikeouts. He finished with a 3.99 earned run average and .262 batting average against mark.
Smith will wear the number 48 for the Angels. It has not been indicated to him whether he will be a starter or reliever, but he will be ready in any role that is offered.
"I am thankful for all of the help and support from my family, the 49ers program and God for helping me to this point. I have a lot of pride of where I am from and I just hope I make everybody proud."
Smith graduated in May with a degree in geography.
In other minor league news, Charlotte's 60th minor leaguer, catcher Miguel Rodriguez, a 36th round pick of the Boston Red Sox, made his pro debut as the starting catcher for the Gulf Coast Red Sox on Monday. Another May graduate, Rodriguez, the Cape Coral, Florida native who earned a degree in management, was pick number 1,111 of the 2012 draft.