Coach­ing at Cam­den

Smith, Root help North team to win at Brooks Robin­son All-Star Game

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com

Although there were no play­ers from South­ern Mary­land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence schools who were able to take the field on Sun­day af­ter­noon in the 36th edi­tion of the Brooks Robin­son All-Star Game at Ori­ole Park at Cam­den Yards, a pair of SMAC base­ball coaches were in the win­ning dugout that day.

Hunt­ing­town High School head coach Guy Smith and La Plata High School as­sis­tant coach Bill Root, fill­ing in for the va­ca­tion­ing John Childers, were coaches for the North squad that pre­vailed 3-1 over the South team on Sun­day. The lat­est edi­tion of the Brooks Robin­son game had an added mean­ing for Smith, who played in the first game that Cam­den Yards hosted in 1992 soon af­ter grad­u­at­ing from North­ern High School.

“It meant a lot to me to walk into that dugout and walk out onto that field 25 years af­ter I had the chance to play in the first Brooks Robin­son game at Cam­den Yards,” said Smith, who played col­lege base­ball at the Univer­sity of Mary­land for coach Tom Bradley. “It was hard to be­lieve that it had been 25 years since I had played in the game there.”

Back in 1992, the same

sea­son that Cam­den Yards opened as the home of the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles af­ter the team spent nearly 30 years play­ing at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium af­ter mov­ing from the midwest play­ing as the St. Louis Browns, Smith was on the South team that lost a 7-6 de­ci­sion to the North squad. But Sun­day af­ter­noon his North team pre­vailed thanks to an RBI sin­gle by Bren­dan Collins, a re­cent grad­u­ate of Sher­wood High School in Mont­gomery County.

“It was a thrill for me to be there when I was a kid and I know it’s still a big thrill for the kids that get to play in the game now,”

Smith said. “Not many kids ever have the chance to walk across a per­fectly main­tained ma­jor league field like the one in Bal­ti­more. It’s one of those mo­ments you never for­get grow­ing up.”

While Smith was able to con­jure up me­mories of yes­ter­year walk­ing across the di­a­mond and sit­ting in the club­house at Cam­den Yards on Sun­day, the con­test marked a gen­uine first for Root. Although a grad­u­ate of Sal­is­bury Univer­sity in 2014 and cur­rently a teacher at Mil­ton M. Somers Mid­dle School in La Plata, Sun­day’s game marked the first time that the Philadel­phia na­tive had ever been to Cam­den Yards.

“Hav­ing grown up in Philadel­phia, I have al­ways been a die-hard Phillies fans and I’ve been to their games a num­ber of times over the years,” Root said. “But [Sun­day] was the first time that I had ever been to Cam­den Yards. I’ve seen games on tele­vi­sion liv­ing down here, but I had never been to the sta­dium. It’s got a his­toric feel to it, even though it’s re­ally not that old.”

Smith coached the

North team one year af­ter SMAC schools were well-rep­re­sented in the con­test. Taylor Cook, Scott Logue and Tyler Stock­well, all key mem­bers of the 2016 La Plata state cham­pi­onship team and Bowen Plagge (Leonard­town) all played in that game. Hunt­ing­town grad­u­ate De­vaughn Reed was an al­ter­nate, but none of the reg­u­lars dropped out to cre­ate a va­cancy.

“De­vaughn had the chance to play in one of the pre­lim­i­nary All-star games in Sal­is­bury,” Smith said, re­fer­ring to a game played one week ear­lier at the home of the Del­marva Shore­birds, an Ori­oles Sin­gle-A club. “None of the al­ter­nates had the chance to play in the game on Sun­day be­cause none of the

starters opted out.”

Smith noted that there will be a fresh­man-sopho­more All-Star game at Prince Ge­orge’s Sta­dium, home of the Bowie Baysox, the Ori­oles’ Dou­ble-A squad, in July. Smith may not have vaulted from the Brooks Robin­son game to the ma­jor leagues, but sev­eral play­ers have made the jump over the years af­ter play­ing in the con­test named for the Ori­oles leg­endary Hall of Fame third base­man.

Billy Rip­ken, who later played for the Ori­oles along­side his con­sid­er­ably more fa­mous older brother, Cal Rip­ken Jr., ac­tu­ally played in the in­au­gu­ral game at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in 1982. For­mer ma­jor league pitcher Denny Nea­gle played in the 1986 game there, while Ray Wright (1997) and Mark Teix­eira (1998) played in later editions at Cam­den Yards be­fore head­ing to the big leagues.

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