Rounding the Bases with Ryan Smith
Virginia baseball opens its season Friday against Lehigh and it will be the first time several members of the team have played an official game representing the University of Virginia. One of the newcomers is catcher Ryan Smith, who is a second-year transfer from Notre Dame. He sat down with VirginiaSports.com to answer some questions from the transition of working with a new pitching staff to his plans to play in Cape Cod League this summer, to telling us the best way to eat crab.
First off, why did you choose to transfer to Virginia?
Smith: It was one of the tougher decisions I’ve ever had to make to leave Notre Dame. I was very fortunate last year to get a lot of playing time, and I just felt that in order for me to improve my skills, I had to find somewhere else that could offer me a little bit more and I feel that Virginia is the perfect school for me to do that.
What do you see your role being on the team this season?
Smith: Coming in as the new guy, I have tried to learn the ways in which things were done in the past and I hope I can continue to do what Beau Seabury did last year and be a leader not vocally but someone who leads on the field with my actions. I think that’s what my role is. I do everything the coaches ask of me and whatever is best for my teammates.
You mention Beau Seabury. He was one of the best defensive catchers to ever play at Virginia and also caught almost every inning last year. Do you think you can step in and pick up where he left off?
Smith: I think I can. I’ve had a tremendous year, and I’m going to work to continue that. Virginia has a rich tradition of catching and I definitely want to continue on that path.
How hard or easy has it been in the transition to working with the Virginia pitching staff?
Smith: There is tremendous talent on this staff and Coach K’s (Karl Kuhn) does a great job with the staff. The system is more complex than where I came from at Notre Dame, but it was a learning process and in my short time of being here I have learned a lot and I feel very comfortable with the pitchers and I hope they feel comfortable with me.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Smith: My parents. They are the ones who got me into sports and taught me how to act. Everything I have learned as a person is because of my parents.
Could you tell us a little bit about your plans this summer to play on the Cape?
Smith: I am playing in Hyannis with the Hyannis Mets. It’s a great opportunity to go to one of the top tier summer leagues and I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun. I have a couple of buddies that I played with last summer that will be on the team so it will be nice to reunite with them as well.
Where did you play this past summer?
Smith: I played in the Great Lakes League with the Delaware Cows and it was a great experience.
What major league player do you think most resembles your playing style?
Smith: If I could pick one player to resemble I would love to say Jason Varitek. I wouldn’t necessarily compare myself to him but if I could emulate anybody it would be Jason Varitek because of his leadership qualities. They (Boston Red Sox) ask so much out of that guy and he is just someone that they can always count on and I hope I can be that type of player here.
Great answer since Varitek also played for the Hyannis Mets back in his college days. Would you say that he is your favorite player also?
Smith: He is definitely my favorite player. I am a Red Sox fan and I grew up a Red Sox fan. My dad is a Red Sox fan so I grew up watching the Red Sox and Varitek and that’s how I want to play the game of baseball.
What is the best rivalry in sports today?
Smith: I would say just being a baseball fan it is the Yankees and Red Sox.
Do you have any prized autographs?
Smith: I just got a ball signed by (Red Sox manager) Terry Francona at Step Up to the Plate this year, so that’s pretty cool to me.
Aluminum or wood bats?
Smith: As a catcher I have to say wood bats. You have to earn everything with a wooden bat. You aren’t going to get any free hits and games are a lot closer which makes every play count. The mistakes you make have to be so much less than with aluminum where you can get away with more.
What are you favorite things to do outside of baseball?
Smith: I like to see my friends, relax, kind of get away and have a good time. I don’t like to stay inside. I always like to be doing something fun.
If you aren’t playing baseball, where do you see yourself in five years?
Smith: I am really interested in the field of police work stuff like FBI, Secret Service, or Coast Guard maybe. That’s where I see myself once my baseball career is over.
What are you favorite sports and shows to watch on TV?
Smith: I played football in high school and I love football. I love basketball and obviously baseball. As for shows I am a big Family Guy’ fan, but I watch the Discovery Channel all the time. How it’s Made,’ Dirty Jobs’ and all those shows I find pretty cool.
Since you are from Maryland, what is the best way to eat crab?
Smith: There isn’t a wrong way to eat crabs. You just have to pick the legs off first and eat the meat out of those, then you open up the shell and get all the mustard and guts out, then you just pick the meat. You don’t really eat crabs just to eat crabs. It’s more of a social food; you just get with a bunch of family and friends, put the crabs on the table and just sit around and talk. That’s what I love about it.
What to you is the most impressive sports record on the books?
Smith: It would either have to be the streak of games played by Cal Ripken or Brett Favre. Those guys went out there every day and did their job no matter what.
Do you have a nickname?
Smith: Smitty; that’s what everyone here calls me.
What is your favorite home cooked meal?
Smith: Steak and a baked potato. My mom makes a good baked potato and my dad makes a pretty good steak.
If you were an animal which one would you be?
Smith: (laughs) I’d be a bear. Then I could just roam around and do whatever I feel like doing.
Sunflower seeds or gum?
Smith: Let’s go with seeds. I can’t concentrate when I chew gum.
Wahoos or Cavaliers?
Orange or Blue?