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2014 45+ American

San Antonio Reds 8, Rhode Island Salty Dogs 3

‘Smith Leads the Way on the Bump’

By Mike Camunas, special to MSBLnational.com

Dunedin, FL., November 15, 2014 — In this league, if you have a former major league pitcher, you know who your ace is going to be. For the San Antonio Reds, its 50-year-old and former Baltimore Orioles big leaguer Mike Smith.

Smith, who spent seven years with three different MLB organizations, pitched a complete-game Saturday afternoon at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium to lead his Reds to an 8-3 win for the 45+ AmericanChampionship. It was Smith’s sixth overall championship since 1998.

“I just wanted to carry my team as far as I could and honored to do so,” said Smith, who struck out four while allowing three runs on nine hits. “They scored runs for me, I put the ball in play and they did the rest for me. Its easy to go the distance when they give you runs to work with and by then, I just pitch to contact, something I’ve been doing my whole career and its always worked well.”

Smith was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in 1983, didn’t sign, then was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1984. In 1985,Baltimore took him in the Rule 5 draft, and after that, he rose through the Orioles system and reached ‘The Show’ in 1989-90, where he made 15 appearances, has a 2-0 record and 15 strikeouts.

“Its easy to go to the guy who used to pitch professionally,” Reds manager and catcher Kim Fuerniss said. “He’s won so many championships in these leagues at different levels, so he’s been there and done it and I couldn’t have a better starting pitcher.”

Fuerniss takes great pride in this championship, not only because its his first, but because he also gets to sit behind the plate and catch his ace, the former major leaguer. “That’s the nice thing about being the catcher,”Fuerniss added. “I know when they’re tired, I know when they have it, but Mike didn’t slow down at all. Its why he’s our ace and we didn’t even get anybody up in the bullpen.”

The Reds jumped out to a 3-0 in the first and added three more in the fifth. Leading the way was Rex Dela Nuez, David Oliver and Rafael Fuentes, while Smith had a hit, as well.

The Salty Dogs were down 6-0 in the fifth, but did chip in two runs, including one off an RBI single from Timothy Braden, while Dave Palumbo had a triple in the ninth that led to Peter Parente driving him home.

“Well, it took a big leaguer to beat us,” Salty Dogs manager Noah Clark said. “Their whole team is tough. They came to play, so did we, but we came up short. We still had eight hits, but they made theirs timely and we battled too much to his pitches. Both teams played a great game, but my hat’s off to them.”

Its was a no brainer that Smith was named MVP following his pitching performance, and its games, and wins, like Saturday’s that make Smith’s decision to continue his impressive baseball career easy.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be doing this, but when you win it just makes you want to make come out more and more each year,” Smith said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll be back next year, especially if I can keep doing this. But I’ll be back if they want me back next year (laughs).”