Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Sports

June 29, 2014

Grandview's Bailey Smith will further baseball career at Howard Payne

GRANDVIEW — Bailey Smith, a multi-sport athlete for the Grandview Zebras, will continue his baseball career at the next level with Howard Payne University.

Smith was an all-district and all-county performer for the Zebras’ football and baseball teams over the past several seasons. Smith made the all-district and all-county teams all four years of his baseball career, which ended with an offensive MVP award in District 10-2A baseball selections. He closed out his senior year playing in the Central Texas Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game.

During his high school career, Smith earned nine varsity letters for the Zebras — four in baseball, three in football and two in track.

Now, Smith, who said playing in college has always been a dream, will take his talents to Brownwood as a member of the Yellow Jackets, who play in the American Southwest Conference.

“I chose Howard Payne because of the opportunities they have for early playing time, a good chance for having a winning team the next few years, and the fact that it’s a small Christian University not too far from home,” Smith said. “As long as I can remember, it’s been my dream to be a college athlete. I started playing baseball when I was 3 years old and always saw myself at the next level. As the years went on, my love for baseball just exceeded my love for football. I would definitely have considered football but couldn’t see myself not playing baseball anymore. As far as it becoming a reality, it just goes to show that hard work, discipline and good coaching pays off.”

Smith was weighing different choices of where to continue his career, but said the opportunity to play immediately was the primary reason in choosing Howard Payne.

“At Howard Payne, it really was the deciding factor of playing time that pulled me in and influenced me to commit,” Smith said. “The outfield has two senior left fielders and a senior right fielder on the roster. So as the coach was telling me I will have the chance to battle for the starting center field position as a freshman, which is all I want — a chance.

“I’m just going to work hard this summer in improving my game with the Waco Storm as we see the best select competition in the state in Premier Baseball, as well as getting faster and stronger in the weight room and on the field. The weights program at Grandview has also made a huge impact on me and my success, and I’d like to thank Coach [Casey] Walraven for ingraining its importance in my head. I believe we work harder than any other 2A school.”

Over his four-year career with the Zebra baseball program, Smith boasted a .372 batting average, .520 on-base percentage with 78 RBIs, 81 walks drawn and 51 stolen bases.

In his senior season, in which Smith earned the all-district offensive MVP and first-team All-Johnson County honors, Smith led the Zebras with an impressive .538 on-base percentage and 32 walks drawn. He was second on the team in batting average at .368 to go along with 17 RBIs. The number that meant more to Smith than anything throughout his career — on-base percentage.

“As a leadoff guy, I just try doing my job of getting on base, no matter what,” Smith said. “After all, you can’t score runs without base runners, so essentially, batting average means nothing; it’s all about the on-base percentage.”

Smith was a part of the winningest class in Grandview baseball history, and the Zebras were one win away from the state tournament this season, falling to Sunnyvale — the eventual state champion — in game 3 of the regional finals.

“I’m just proud to be a part of such a great team led by Coach [Ryan] Ebner,” Smith said. “He’s such a good coach and deserves these type of players like this year’s senior class that he can develop into an unselfish team that makes deep playoff runs. Also, Grandview has been labeled as a football school because of all the teams’ success in past years, which I’m proud to be a part of. I’m just glad to have been on the teams that put our baseball program out there. I’m blessed to have been with such a great group of seniors, but I would like to thank the younger players for their roles in such a great year.”

Walraven, Grandview’s head football coach and athletic director, was complimentary of Smith throughout the football season as a selfless player who will do whatever is needed for the team, and Smith had the same mindset on the diamond.

“Throughout my career, I just wanted to do my personal role for the team, no matter what it took,” Smith said. “When I was a sophomore, I was moved from center to right field to accommodate the teams needs better, and, honestly, I would have moved to catcher or infield if Ebner wanted me to. Personal achievements mean nothing without a team doing each role with a good attitude.”

Smith said on continuing his new path, he is most looking forward to moving on to a higher level of competition.

“I would have to say that I’m most looking forward to the better competition and challenges that I will face,” he said. “At HPU, I’m starting over with a new coach, team and town. I’ve got something to prove and I’m not going to get all of the great support that I had back home. I’m sure the fans and school are very supportive but it’s not on as much of a personal level like in Grandview. I’m going to have to motivate myself to earning a key spot in the organization.

“I’m also looking forward to playing conference games against my Waco Storm teammates; Blake Hoelscher from Rogers who’s playing at Southwestern and Michael Evan from Cameron who’s playing at Concordia, who are other 2A players that worked their way into earning a spot on college teams.”

Smith, who was a member of the National Honor Society and earned the Dean’s Scholarship at Howard Payne, said he plans to major in science engineering, and after his time at Howard Payne is over, he plans to earn a degree in petroleum engineering at Texas Tech or Texas A&M.

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