There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2015-16 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight these players.
This week: Gopher redshirt junior outfielder Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is on pace to have his best season as a Minnesota Golden Gopher. His batting average is hovering around .300, over 80 points over his .229 career average. The 6-3 redshirt junior from Eden Prairie this season got his first career triple, and had the game winning RBI to clinch a series win against Maryland in mid-April. On Friday, Minnesota scored two runs on Smith’s two-out single in the sixth inning to beat the Illinois 3-1, in the first game of a doubleheader.
“I was working on some stuff in the fall that has helped me,” said Smith to the MSR. “I’m feeling more comfortable each weekend. It’s getting better every day at practice. Also playing every day helps a lot.” He has posted seven multi-RBI games this season after the Gophers’ non-conference home victory versus North Dakota State April 19.
He didn’t play in that contest, however, an unexpected surprise for both he and this reporter. Nonetheless, the outfielder stayed eagle-eye sharp throughout, just in case Minnesota Coach John Anderson summoned him either to pinch hit or take the field as a late-inning replacement. “You try to watch the [opposing] pitcher on how they are getting the hitters out,” explained Smith on his night off. “Since I’m a lefty, I wanted to see how he challenged lefties. I wanted to make sure I’m ready when the opportunity comes.”
Smith further explained that another possible reason for his being more comfortable at the plate this season is his holding the bat differently. “I was gripping the bat tighter last year, and I was tensing up my back and shoulders,” he pointed out.
While the Gophers continues its Big Ten schedule — they hosts Indiana Friday, Saturday and Sunday — and hope of a long post-season run, beginning with the Big Ten Tournament later this month, Smith also is eagerly looking for his first non-baseball summer. He has played either summer ball in the Northwoods League or American Legion, in past summers. “Summer’s coming close,” he said on both the season and the academic year quickly winding down.
“This is the first time I am taking the summer off,” he said excitedly of his upcoming summer internship at the Ryder Cup, which will be held in late September at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska.
He likes golf and he has a friend who’s a member at Hazeltine, but Smith quickly added that he got his job without his friend’s help. “I applied myself. He didn’t have anything to do with it,” noted Smith.
Smith is a sports management major but unsure where the degree that he hopes to complete next year will take him after graduation. “I’m not sure what I will do after college, but hope it will be something to do with sports,” he surmised.
Perhaps, his summer job working in Ryder Cup operations will help give him some ideas.
“It will be a lot of busy work,” concluded Smith. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m very excited about it.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.