Cove hurler drafted by Philadelphia Phillies in 29th round of MLB Draft
By TJ Maxwell
Belief in yourself is a key to success.
Copperas Cove grad Jaylen Smith knows that all too well.
After getting drafted in the 29th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, Smith had to make the decision of going the safe route by playing baseball at San Jacinto College or packing his bags and leaving for rookie camp in Clearwater, Florida.
After discussing it with his family and Copperas Cove head baseball coach Dusty Brittain, Smith knew what he had to do.
“It’s been a long process,” said Smith. “I sat down and talked to my family and I sat down and talked with coach Brittain. We talked about whether to go to the rookie camp or go to college. He said, at the end of the day, it’s my decision. I thought it was best to go ahead and go.
“I told myself, if I get a good deal I would go. If not, I would take my chances going to San Jacinto and see where it takes me.”
The lefty finished his senior year with a 7-1 record and an earned run average of 2.610 per contest with a 1.407 WHIP. He led the Bulldawgs to their best-ever record of 25-6-2.
Smith allowed 30 runs (22 earned) on 29 hits while walking 54 and striking out 110. Smith added a .333 batting average hitting from the nine hole. He had 28 hits in 84 at bats with four doubles, five triples and 22 RBIs.
Smith notched big improvements from his junior to senior year. He finished the 2017 season with a 4-3 record on the mound and a 3.052 ERA. Smith struck out 44 more batters in 2018 in just two more innings of work.
“It feels good to be the first to come out of Cove and coach Brittain’s first high school player to get drafted,” said Smith. “It’s a great feeling.”
Smith had already gotten the call when he sat down to watch the draft with his family.
“We got a phone call from the coach,” he said. “My parents and I watched the draft and my name was called. It was a really exciting moment.”
Smith knows the road from the minors to the major league is a treacherous one, but he is confident in his ability but knows it is going to take hard work and sacrifice.
“Mechanics. I basically need to work on my mechanics and get better and better every day,” he said. “You can’t go wrong working on your mechanics.
“I just have to work harder, do better and work my way up through the organization.”
Having Brittain as a sounding board was invaluable to Smith but in the end, it just came down to what felt right.
“His advice was very valuable,” said Smith. “He gave me his opinion and said whichever decision I make would be a good one. I talked with my parents and decided to go.”
Having his college paid for in the event he should return to the college ranks helped in the decision process.
“I don’t really know that much about it but it’s exciting to know that my college will be paid for if I decide to go back,” said Smith.
Smith departed Saturday for rookie camp at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Fla., the spring training home of the Phillies and the home of the Class A affiliate the Clearwater Threshers.
Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Robert Griffin III inspired many generations of aspiring football players and Smith hopes to have that same impact on future baseball players.
“My advice is to just keep working hard,” he said. “I tell a lot of kids to just keep working hard. If you have a dream, just go chase it and work for it. No matter how big that dream is, you can accomplish it if you work hard.”